The Common Good
May-June 1997

A Second Chance for Sandwiches

by Carey Burkett | May-June 1997

The loaves and fishes in the Bible story of the "feeding of the five thousand" (a major sandwich-making operation) should spring to mind whenever hungry people congregate.

The loaves and fishes in the Bible story of the "feeding of the five thousand" (a major sandwhich-making operation) should spring to mind whenever hungry people congregate.

Why do sandwiches always taste better at someone else’s house? My own inclination when searching for something to fix for lunch is to do "anything but sandwiches"—leftover supper from the night before, a quick pot of macaroni ’n’ cheese, a salad. But whenever I eat one someone else has made, I

realize what a complete and tasty meal a sandwich offers. Obviously, I need to overcome a certain lack of imagination when making these layered gold mines.

Summer is an easy time to create a sandwich marvel. Crisp cucumber rounds, rings of bell pepper, juicy slabs of red tomato, slices of mild onion, romaine lettuce leaves are all in season, and such vegetables almost make the cheese and bread irrelevant. Add jalapeño peppers, a squirt of oil-and-vinegar dressing, salt, pepper, and a few olives, and you will wonder why you ever bother to cook hot food.

If summer vegetable season has not quite arrived, you can perk up a tired turkey breast or ham sandwich with pineapple chunks, or cranberry sauce, or a hot-sweet mustard.

When is the last time you had a fried egg sandwich? Or took the time to make an egg salad sandwich, with its focus on that most ubiquitous of sandwich ingredients—pickles? Again, an egg sandwich of toasted bread, creamy mayonnaise, and sliced ripe tomato may have you swearing never to eat an egg with a fork again. (I have seen a breakfast variety of egg sandwich that features jelly and buttered toast with an egg between, but I still prefer the lunch version best.)

Speaking of jelly, I have to wonder how many cream cheese and jelly sandwich fans there are out there. In my book, that combination ranks higher as a dessert (particularly on fresh-from-the-oven whole wheat bread) than cheesecake. Peanut butter and jelly has to get a passing nod as well because of its classic status in 20th-century America. (I know a 50-year-old woman who still takes a PBJ sandwich to work for lunch every day.)

What about trying at home some of the mouth-watering sandwiches you see on restaurant menus: grilled chicken breast with avocado, cream cheese, tomato, and red onion; fried catfish dressed with spicy coleslaw or cocktail sauce; grilled red pepper, grilled portabello mushroom, fresh cilantro, and horseradish sauce; a Reuben sandwich with its magical combination of corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese; the favored bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich.

Just varying the bread you eat will keep sandwich making from becoming too boring: white, whole wheat, sourdough, rye, potato, oat, dill cheese (or any herbed breads), hard rolls, soft ones, seeded breads....Bread choices have become numerous in recent years as eaters seek foods that are easy to fix, yet still interesting.

SANDWICHES are indeed a speedy food to create. They offer a nutritious and balanced combination of foods. (Even the fat- and salt-conscious eaters can easily make substitutions to suit.) Eating a sandwich serves to remind us how unnecessary are the trappings of most meals—tables, napkins, breakable dishes, an arsenal of utensils.

The loaves and fishes of the Bible story of the "feeding of the five thousand" (a major sandwich-making operation) should spring to mind first thing whenever hungry people congregate. Humble foods in the right context, in the right combination, and eaten in thankfulness will indeed satisfy our bodies and souls.

Homemade Mayonnaise

• 1 egg
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
• 1/4 tsp. paprika
• 1 T. vinegar
• 1 T. lemon juice
• 1 cup salad oil

Put egg, seasonings, vinegar, and lemon juice, plus 1/4 cup of the oil in blender jar. Whip. Remove feeder cap and pour rest of oil in a thin, steady stream while blender continues to run. Yields 1 1/4 cup. Keep refrigerated.

CAREY BURKETT is an organic vegetable farmer in Hallettsville, Texas.

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