There are so many reasons to fully and completely love life; the magnanimous things like having children, getting your driver’s license, getting married, and subsequently filing for divorce; but it’s the little things that really make life worth living, like creating a work of art, adopting a shelter dog, the smell of fresh cut hay, and eating your favorite sandwich. Every great chef, gourmet, gourmand, and food lover has a favorite sandwich in their repertoire. My preferences have changed over the years, starting with the archetype, simple grilled cheese at age 5, that was made with Wonderbread slathered with butter and fried until toasty brown with processed American cheese; then onto a makeshift “peg-leg” comprised of leftover fried chicken and Picante salsa folded over a single slice of Roman Meal wheat bread from about age 7 to 12. For those of unfamiliar with the term “peg-leg”, it simply refers to a piece of bread folded over onto itself after being filled with something.
I was also quite fond of my Granny D’s fried bologna sandwich that was made with thin slices of Oscar Mayer lunch meat scored with four 3-inch long slits that helped keep the slices from curling up on themselves. I loved the way the fried bologna smelled and tasted, slightly charred, tender with mayo on spongy white bread. I also adored Pickle Loaf, something I would never admit to anyone but my grandma until I was in my thirties. Another childhood favorite was a sandwich comprised entirely of ingredients from an Italian deli in Frontenac, Kansas. I stylized white bread with a hearty brown crust, sliced garlicky Genoa salami, and whisper thin sliced muenster cheese; in fact, this was usually consumed in the back of the car, the family en route to somewhere in Southeastern Kansas. I still fondly remember eating sans condiment as the dusty wind blew into the back seat of our wood paneled station wagon.
During my busy high school days, I absolutely loved a PB&J, especially when made with Peter Pan crunchy peanut butter, blackberry preserves (chock full of tiny, white seeds), and two slices of wheat bread, because my mother refused to buy white bread. I would eat them everyday after school with a tall, cold glass of milk - divine!
As in entered adulthood, and then eventually the restaurant world, I developed a deep affinity for a myriad sandwiches, but my favorite until recently was crusty baguette slathered with Dijon mustard, paper thin slices of prosciutto, Gruyere cheese toasted until melty, then finished with two over easy eggs, drippy and delicious. I would sit alone with my sandwich, an ice cold beer, and the glow of televised Grand Slam tennis championship match. Sweet, sweet surrender. Humans have their rituals, and food is no exception when it comes to the things that grant us peace, serenity…and the taste of salty prosciutto, rich Gruyere, and buttery egg yolks housed beneath the earthy crunch of toasted french bread is nothing short of culinary nirvana.
Recently, some of you have been shocked by my investigation, and subsequent appreciation of peanut butter and mayo based sandwiches; a variety made popular in the deep south of the United States during the Great Depression that was born from necessity rather than preference. Still, the idea of protein packed peanut butter fortified with mayonnaise to make it go further was miraculously granted the virtue of creating a singular, sublime flavor that tasted of slightly soured, creamy sweet toasted nuts. I didn’t have it until recently, but it’s already become a fast favorite, despite the furrowed brows and belly aching of my friends, family. So, to all my loved ones and contemporaries that fall inside this loud, rude group of discriminating haters, I ask you this: Do you enjoy coarse grain mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, or Thousand Island dressing all by itself? Of course not…unless you’re some kind of idiotic, gluttonous barbarian.
I enthusiastically invite the haters, the culinary snobs, and anti-southern contingency with their pseudo-intellectual superiority to take a few minutes to invest in an exercise in culinary history and humanity. Make this sandwich. Eat this sandwich. Taste this sandwich. Digest this sandwich. Poop this Sandwich. If then, and ONLY then you still don’t like or have a craving for such a marvelous thing, you are free to criticize and give your unfettered, honest analysis. Until then, kindly…well, you know.
The Piggly Wiggly
4 slices bacon
3 slices tomato, salted and peppered
1 wedge iceberg lettuce
4 slices Clausen pickles
1 tablespoon Skippy peanut butter
1 tablespoon Duke’s mayo
2 slices wheat bread, toasted
Fry bacon over medium high heat until crispy - drain grease and set aside. Mix together Skippy creamy peanut butter and Duke’s mayo until light brown color, hair gel thin. Generously spread peanut butter, mayo mixture on both slices of bread; then top one side of the slathered bread in this order: iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced Clausen pickles, and bacon. Top with other slice of bread; cut in half, and enjoy.