19 August, 2008

Sandwich Perfection

It's not often that I get the chance/take the opportunity to make myself a sandwich, but when I do, for some reason, it tastes so damn perfect. Maybe it's because I can make the sandwich my way - I believe I've remarked before that the sandwiches I usually have aren't quite my style - too much, too "hard", or too focused on the meat part in a lot of cases, otherwise it might be due to the choice of cheese or mustard. Or maybe it's some kind of internal physiological reward for exerting effort for my food (although that can't be the only reason, as effort does not automatically equate to taste).

Then again, part of it may be related to the fact that when I make a sandwich, it tends to fall into that magical size region where it's not quite enough to fill me up. Now, for some people, that would be a negative thing. If it doesn't fill you up, it's not enough, right? Not necessarily. Being stuffed out of your mind can be fun every once in awhile, but in general, I'd rather be a little hungry after a meal than over-full. Maybe I'm unique like that, but there's something about that feeling of being able to eat a little more, without being outright hungry, and without actually acting on that feeling, that appeals to me. Maybe it's because I'm not a huge fan of food and eating in the first place, and by leaving the table before I get full, I can avoid that ugly feeling of being stuffed and hating food, and instead have a more respectful and caring attitude toward food for a change.

So here's my magic formula for making a perfect sandwich. We'll use the five-point star model, since a perfect sandwich is made up of five key ingredients. Anything less would be insufficient, and anything more would seriously risk overcomplicating the sandwich and thus reducing its overall appeal.

1) The Bread - You can't go wrong with plain white bread. No need to get fancy. I almost always prefer the bread toasted, though. The crispness just puts the finished product over the top, and gives it a more interesting texture than soft bread - though there may be some exceptions.

2) The Meat - There are two important factors to the meat. First is the kind of meat. Your tastes will obviously vary, but for me, there's really nothing better than turkey, as long as we're talking about sandwiches. And it's gotta be sliced - the thinner the better. A little seasoning can be good, be it smoked or mesquite or whatever, just as long as it isn't overpowered. The second factor is concentration. You want to have a lot of meat, since it forms the bulk of the sandwich, but you want to be careful about overloading, which detracts from the rest of the ingredients. It's something you can only learn through practice.

3) The Cheese - Any good sandwich has to have some cheese. Personally, I'm a fan of cheddar, but I can go for some other options, like Colby, Pepper Jack, or even American, if it's the only option available. Again, your tastes will vary. As much as I am a fan of melted cheese, when it comes to this specific breed of sandwich, the cheese does a better job unmelted. It's less messy, and it avoids turning the sandwich into a "hot sandwich" which is just a whole different story.

4) The Spread - In the sandwich world, mustard and mayonnaise seem to be the most popular options. And while I can stand certain mustards in certain moods, mayonnaise is the classic choice, and the best option for crafting the perfect sandwich.

5) The Topping - I call it a topping not because it necessarily goes on top of the sandwich, but because it is the ingredient which tops off the sandwich, elevating it above the level of common sandwiches and allowing, if chosen appropriately, the sandwich to approach perfection. In my scheme, The Topping must always be something juicy. That's just the way it is. Tomatoes are the standard option - and a good choice - but for lack of availability, I've had the chance to try a couple alternatives. Relish is also good - the regular green stuff (as opposed to the mustardy yellow kind). It might sound kind of wierd to put relish on a sandwich, depending on your background and sensibilities, but it's really not all that different from using pickles, if you think about it. Another option is to use pepperoncini, which gives the sandwich a nice kick. I have to admit I've become more and more fond of pepperoncini over the years. But whatever topping you choose to use, you'll just know when it's right. And if you don't know, then it's not right.

Happy sandwich making!

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