The Heavenly Joy Of The August Tomato Sandwich
In my last blog, I talked about making lists of things that I find inspiring. Lately, food keeps popping up at the top. Specifically, the once-a-year August Tomato – or also referred to by the Midwesterner in me – ‘Mater’ Sandwich.
The True Tomato Sandwich
I will admit I am a tomato snob. Eaten fresh off the vine like an apple is certainly first pass for wonderful. But the haute cuisine of ‘tomato’-ness is sliced and served on white bread – not whole wheat, not rye not some fancy artisanal loaf – but plain ole white, with semi-firm texture. Take two slices, set them on your counter and then schmear the heck out of them with a paddle-full of mayo.
Once you’ve prepped your bread, the tomato should be gently, maybe even worshipfully sliced (this is a skill requiring a lifetime of technique) before layering onto the bottom piece of bread. Make sure every portion is covered. Now go ahead and sprinkle with a generous helping of kosher salt. And then do it again because the tomato, which has been lovingly ripening in your or your neighbors garden (you can’t do this with a hothouse mater – no, no, no!) is shocked by the initial encounter with the salt and resists, so you must repeat to maximize flavor.
Do not use fine grain salt. Do not use Himalayan pink or Java black or French Fleur de Sol. I’m certain they have their virtues. Not here, not now. This is all about the crisp, molar rolling, mouth-filling goodness of tomato and kosher. Absolutely no pepper. I mean it.
Before capping it with the top slice of bread, step back. Assess. How is the ‘mater’ to mayo ratio? You still have the opportunity to add more to said slice or even (heaven forbid) scrape some off – if you didn’t get your schmear right first. Is the tomato slightly weepy from the salt? If not, hit it again.
And then double check. Is there any bread showing where tomato should be? You wouldn’t leave your duvet half-covering your mattress would you? If need be, go back to your tomato and carve little crescent-shaped slices from around the stem and use them to hide any ‘mattress’ showing. Now you’re good.
Set the bread on top, get your knife and hold above the sandwich like a master violinist positioning her bow. Use a sawing motion to slice with purpose. Do not push directly down or you will crush it into soggy mush. Never eat a tomato sandwich without cutting it in half. You need a full side view of the middle; the oozing pink tomato-y goodness mixed with the milky white mayo.
The first bite must happen in the middle of the cut side. Remember to close your eyes as you chew. You don’t want anything ruining this complete taste experience. I won’t bother to describe it since mere words can only approximate the meaty tomato goodness.
But I will say this. If you are like me, you will gobble the rest of the sandwich over a paper towel and let the juices run off your chin. You will do this in heaping mouthfuls and embarrassingly quickly because you can’t help yourself.
Go ahead and channel your internal Midwesterner and reassure yourself that this is only the starter sandwich.
Because one is never enough.
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