Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Let's talk about sandwiches, baby

The Sandwich.

For some mundane. For others exhilarating. What images does "sandwich" conjure up for you? What emotions does it spur?

Over the years sandwiches have rarely excited me. I can think of a couple exceptions, but most often it was PB&J here, plain ham there. I do remember eras when I downed grilled cheese sandwiches by the bakers dozen due to their sheer greasy palatability, but generally for me sandwiches were boring.

Not anymore!

It may surprise you, but I didn't wake up one morning with a glorious vision of how my sandwich experience would be revolutionized. It was only after months, even years of gradual and sometimes imperceptible changes in the constitution of my sandwiches that I suddenly realized, "I used to be bored by sandwiches, now they thrill me!"

So how did it happen? After many hours of pondering, the only way I can think to explain it is by describing the six sandwich phases that I've passed through. All of this has occurred in the past 2.5 years since moving to Arizona. These phases, in ways that at times boggle the mind, have brought me to my present state of sandwich bliss.

The Phases
1. The BBQ sauce phase.
2. The bell pepper phase.
3. The Subway phase.
4. The mustard phase.
5. The onion phase.
6. The pineapple phase.

Confused? Let me explain:

Phase 1. the BBQ sauce phase
I used to think all a sandwich needed was BBQ sauce. When I started bringing sandwiches for lunch here at med school, I brought them with just ham and BBQ sauce. I liked them at first like I always had, but they just didn't have enough ingredients and I got tired of it. I was bored.

Phase 2. The bell pepper phase
Shortly after the BBQ sauce phase I started making a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches with red bell pepper slices in the sandwich-maker my first landlady owned. Learning how good those bell peppers tasted on the sandwiches began to soften my heart and prepare a fertile ground for learning about other sandwich condiments. Nonetheless, it was not long before these sandwiches too were, you guessed it...boring.

Phase 3. The Subway Phase
For the first 24 or so years of my life I was cheapskate enough that Subway was out of my price range. This changed in the past few years both because I stopped being so fanatically frugal and because I started being more health conscious. And with the advent of the five-dollar foot-long, my Subway consumption peaked last Summer at an average of about four sandwiches per week. Not only did I become a master of the nuances of ordering Subway sandwiches, this is when my eyes were opened to the wonders of vegetables as sandwich condiments. That's why this phase could also be called the vegetable phase.

Phase 4. The mustard phase
As I was eating Subway sandwiches and continuing to largely flounder in my own efforts at creating a viable sandwich, I made an alarming discovery: mustard. That's right, much as Ben Franklin discovered electricity and Columbus discovered America, I discovered mustard. And in a similarly monumental manner to the effect of their discoveries, discovering mustard changed my sandwiches forever. You see, I'm not talking about your average every-day mustard. I'm talking about Great Value Southwest Spicy Mustard, and I'm talking about Great Value Honey Mustard. You can find them at Wal-Mart. When used in concert, these two mustards are all the sauce a sandwich needs. And ever since I started using these mustards, my sandwiches have not been boring.

Phase 5. Onion Phase: It's really quite silly that the onion phase should even exist. I should have known about the impact of onions ever since the Subway phase, if not before. I think my hangup was, even though I knew onions were good, I didn't realize how striking an impact they could have on my sandwiches, nor did I comprehend their ease of use. When I finally did start using onions consistently on my sandwiches, the immediate positive impact was astounding.

Phase 6. The pineapple phase: The pineapple phase is really another name for the tomato phase. I have always loved tomatoes on sandwiches, but in years past didn't get around to buying them, often beccause of the aforementioned cheapskatishness from which I for so long suffered. Well, over the past year I've started buying tomatoes a lot more often, and I've been kicking myself the whole time for not doing so sooner. After falling in love all over again with tomatoes on my sandwiches, one day I found my kitchen devoid of tomatoes and I had to scramble. So I thought, what makes tomatoes good on sandwiches? Mostly it's because they're sweet, thick, and juicy. So it logically follows that other things that are also sweet, thick, and juicy could also be really good on a sandwich. The first time this happened I used orange slices as my replacement(surprisingly good, by the way), and more recently I tried pineapple. Now I sometimes use both tomatoes and pineapple on the same sandwich! There's almost too much sweetness, thickness, and juiciness to go around!

It's been a long hard road, and I'm sure more discoveries await, but I can now say that I am fully entrenched in a love affair with sandwiches. The sandwiches I now make incorporate all of the crystallized principles that can be derived from the phasic progression described above. And they are truly glorious!

How to build the sandwich, from bottom to top:

1. Good-quality whole-wheat bread, toasted
2. Thin layer of low-fat mayonnaise on bottom slice only (optional)
3. Three or four slices of Premium Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast (or turkey)
4. Plentiful Onion slices
5. Great Value Honey Mustard and Southwest Spicy Mustard, in perpendicular criss-cross patterns
6. Tomato slices, providing full coverage
7. Pineapple (optional, or in place of tomatoes)

Also try: olives, mushrooms, bell peppers

I might not believe it if I hadn't experienced it personally, but it's actually quite difficult to overstate how good these sandwiches are. Let me try: They're the best sandwiches ever made in the whole world! Ok, that may be going a little bit overboard. What I will say, with no reservations, is that the sandwiches I make and eat today are not boring. I'm excited!

Excuse me while I go make a sandwich.

A blog about blogs...

Ok, I have officially started a blog. This first post isn't a real post...it's a fake one. It's where I'll mention part of why I'm doing this and the vision I have for it.

I have several friends and family members who have blogs, and I've noticed there are a few general types.
  1. One type is the "journal" blog, usually started by people with families to show off their kids. I like these blogs, but only because they're about people in my family that I care about. If they were about someone else's family I wouldn't bother to read them.
  2. Another type of blog is the "Cool Stuff" blog, which tells us about stuff the author thinks is cool. This could be epitomized by one of my brothers who blogs sporadically when he finds something cool enough to share.
  3. Another type is the opinion/essay blog, where the author takes on potentially controversial subjects and writes a persuasive essay to show what they think about it and try to back it up. I have one friend who does a good job of this and tries to stimulate debate.
  4. Another important type of blog which I am completely ignoring because I don't read any of these is the "theme" blog. A blog which consistently discusses the same topic, like a blog about basketball, trucking, scrapbooking, or politics.
As I thought about starting my own blog, I was inspired at times by one type of blog, at times by another. In think in writing the blog I will sometimes be more like one and sometimes like another. I mostly hope to stay away from the journal type, occasionally touch on something controversial, sometimes be persuasive, and most often just write about something cool. Or, I may completely abandon all these ideas and do nothing of the sort! But right at this moment that's my vision. Sort of. And maybe as a byproduct of all this I'll improve my writing ability.

Will you take the time to read this potentially-silly blog? I have no idea. But if you do I would love for you to occasionally provide feedback, of whatever type strikes your fancy.

By the way, if you want to know when there are new posts, the easiest way might be the box the right side of this page that says, "Subscribe".

Personally, I use Google Reader to gather all the blogs that I follow into one place, and I check it every few days to see if any of those ten or so blogs have new entries. If you don't know how to do this I'd be happy to help.

Are you excited? Should you be excited? Is excitement on your part even conceivable?

By the way my first real post will come very soon, before I leave the country this Friday, February 20th around noon.