Roundtable and OPEN THREAD: Our Most Significant Sandwich Memories

It’s Take Back the Sandwich day on Autostraddle! Because our sandwiches aren’t about pleasing men or getting bitches back into the kitchen, they’re about sandwiches. We’re fucking the patriarchy and celebrating the sandwich, purely and without political context.

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What is life if not a journey from one incredible sandwich to the next?  What is our purpose on this earth if not to create, garnish and consume terrific sandwiches?  Who are we without our sandwich memories?  Are PB&Js more delicious sliced into rectangles or triangles?  That one is a trick question; it’s obviously triangles.  Below, some Autostraddle team members share their most significant memories of sandwiches from their past.  We invite you to share your sandwich-related memories, which we can all read while eating sandwiches.  Try not to get crumbs on your keyboard.

Stef’s Tragic Tale of Trauma and Tofurky

My girlfriend and I had been together off and on for an incredibly volatile seven months or so, but it was so exhausting that it had started to feel like a lifetime.  We’d drink too much, we’d get into a fight over something stupid, we’d scream at each other in the street like nothing I’ve ever experienced before or since, but we’d always end up going home together.  We’d both tried to scale our relationship back to a casual friendship several times to little success, and our intense, unavoidable chemistry had convinced me that I’d remain miserably in love with her for the rest of my foreseeable future.  I didn’t like who I was when I was with her at all, but I couldn’t imagine not being with her.  I was taking terrible care of myself and felt both physically and emotionally disgusting.  At long last, I hit a wall and realized that I needed to get my life back in order, and the first thing I had to do was end this toxic relationship.

I had a plan in mind, but I have the unfortunate luck of having an absolutely terrible poker face, and she knew me well enough to know that something was very wrong right away.  We were in Times Square waiting for a movie to start, and she pestered me over and over to tell her what was going on.  Finally I just told her point blank: after tonight, we shouldn’t see each other anymore.  Like, at all.  She had to delete my number, and she had to return my keys.  The previews started and we quieted down, both staring straight ahead at the screen.  I rested my head on her shoulder.  I don’t think either of us paid any attention to the plot of the movie; if you asked me now, I couldn’t tell you a damn thing that happened.

After the film had ended, we took a walk to discuss the situation in depth.  I explained that while we both cared about each other very much, our dynamic had become extremely unhealthy, and the only solution was to cease communication, at least for now.  At this point, she started to get very upset.  I couldn’t help feeling guilty and awful and automatically switched into mom mode; I asked her to come home with me so I could look after her.  She didn’t love staying at my house – my room was always a disaster, which drove her nuts – but she agreed.  The situation wasn’t the most logical, but this was really the only thing we could think to do at the time.  We rode the subway together somberly, stopped on the way home to pick up some late night snack materials, and after we’d both calmed down a bit we fell asleep in my bed – on opposite sides, back to back, as far away from each other as possible.

In the morning when I woke up for work, she was still curled up in the corner of my bed.  I hadn’t really registered what was happening, that I might never see her again, so I did what made the most sense: I got ready for work as quietly as possible, then went to the fridge to pack myself a lunch.  I made myself a Tofurky and avocado sandwich, and made her an extra – kale, tomato, vegenaise, a few roasted red peppers.  I cut it into triangles, put it in a sandwich bag in the refrigerator, and left a note letting her know where to find it.  When I got home that night, the sandwich was gone and she’d made my bed.  For two people who’d treated each other as horribly as we had, this was probably the sweetest way we could have ended things.  Also, that was a really delicious sandwich.

oh i wanna take you home, i wanna make you sandwiches, and you might be my girlfriend, yeah yeah yeah yeah-yeah-yeah

Kristen’s Sandwich Romance

I met my girlfriend because we both loved food. We were introduced at a bar, re-met at a brunch and found ourselves going to the same picnics. While I realized I could eat her carrot salad until the end of time, I had no idea if we’d be willing to give up kitchen real estate for each other. So when we grilled these maple-laced caramelized onion Gruyère behemoths on a rainy evening and neither of us lost an eye, I knew she was a keeper.

i wanna eat sandwiches with somebody, with somebody who loves me

i wanna eat sandwiches with somebody, with somebody who loves me

Intern Chelsey’s Coming Out Sandwich Story

When I was seventeen, my two best friends and I were mildly obsessed with a local band. We went to every one of their shows and eventually befriended all the band members. I became particularly close with the lead singer, Nickie, and she started spending a lot of time at my parents’ house. Whenever she would come over she would make the weirdest sandwiches. They were always “double decker” sandwiches with lots of mayonnaise and lunch meat. At the time, I thought it was adorable. I eventually realized that finding a person’s sandwich making habits cute is a serious red flag of a crush. These sandwiches, as strange as they were, helped me realize how gay I was. Specifically how gay I was for her. Nickie and I ended up dating for two years. We are still friends, but she doesn’t make any sandwiches anymore because she is now a gluten free lesbian.

Laura’s Sandwich of Turkey Destroyed by a Sandwich of Cars

One time I when I was on an internship in Rochester, I had this intense craving for pesto. I left at lunch and drove to a local bakery where they made these really great turkey pesto sandwiches. Like, you’d have one and you’d find yourself offhandedly thinking about it for the next three days. Anyway, I got my sandwich on multigrain with cheddar to go and started driving back. I came across some road construction and stopped behind another car. While I was waiting for the traffic director to wave us through, I opened up my sandwich and started nibbling… and before I even reached the third nibble, another car came crashing through the intersection and SLAMMED into the back of my car, sandwiching my Honda between it and car in front of me.

My car crunched in two and my turkey pesto sandwich went flying up onto the dashboard, getting pesto all over the interior. I was fine, my Honda was totaled, and I never got to finish my lunch. Sometimes I still have dreams about that sandwich. It was the one that got away…

dreaming of you tonight, til tomorrow, i'll be holding you tight

dreaming of you tonight, til tomorrow, i’ll be holding you tight

The Best Sandwich Ali Ever Ate

My sandwich story both begins and ends in a small town called Heddon-On-The-Wall. At least, I think it does. I was 17 and I hadn’t yet discovered that I have no memory and need to write everything down. I do know that I was close to Hadrian’s Wall, however, and on a giant trip with my high school’s marching band. I was in the color guard, in case you were wondering. Our trip started in Edinburgh, Scotland and by bus spanned all the way to London. This was my first time in Europe and I thought everything was magic. Including the food, for the most part. Because I was traveling with 180 high school band nerds, they always made us pre-order everything so that whatever poor establishment had agreed to take us in for a meal could have everything pretty much ready to go by the time our bus pulled in. And this time I chose vegetable soup, a turkey sandwich and chocolate cake. We’d been traveling for hours by bus, it was very cold when we visited Hadrian’s Wall, and I was freezing and ready to gnaw away at my own fingers/hand/arm. Super hungry. So when we finally pulled in at The Swan, I had my eatin’ pants on.

If you were to ask me right now what the best meal of my life up to this point is, I would tell you the meal at the Swan has so far been my favorite. And I lived in France. And my girlfriend can cook. I have written about this meal in a food writing seminar. And it may be the simplest meal on the planet.

All it was was turkey on rye bread. There wasn’t even any cheese on it. Just meat on meat on meat. The rye was super coarse and completely unlike the bread my family bought in plastic bags. It actually had a flavor, all by itself. It tasted hearty, like the grains. And the turkey! It wasn’t slick and slimy and chemical-esque like the turkey you can get in a grocery store. It was still a cold cut, but it didn’t lie flat as if we’d defeated it or marched over it playing a tuba. It had body. It pushed back against my teeth as I was chewing. Yeah sure, the veggie soup was stellar and I was completely enamored with pouring liquid cream all over chocolate cake (a tradition I had not encountered before this pub), but the sandwich. The sandwich.

I’m not sure why it tasted so good. Perhaps it was because all the ingredients were real. I’m actually not truly sure they were. It could be because we’d been on a bus for hours and I hadn’t eaten since very early in the morning and I was jet lagged and dressed for a Spring that had so far not existed for me in the UK. Or perhaps this sandwich tasted like a time in my life where I was surrounded by 180 nerds that loved each other. Like a long string of firsts, one after the other and bookended by a transatlantic flight. Like adventure and becoming an adult.

Laneia’s Fucking Fig Confit

I thought coming out would free me and fix me and make sense of me. So many things were suddenly really obvious for the first time ever — like why I stole those Playboys from that closet when I was 12 — so I waited patiently for the happiness to follow. Like “Any day now, I’ll be happy like everyone else. I’ve found my true self, right? Everything’s golden now. Right?”

Nah. Not really.

Coming out was a tiny scoot in the right direction, and it got the ball rolling, but it would take years to make any real sense of me, to fix me. I stayed pretty meek and confused and afraid for a long time. It really did suck, you guys. Then a series of unfortunate (and unfortunately common, and basic, but still horrible) events took care of what little space was left between me and the bottom. I looked around, down there at the bottom, and realized a) this was no place to be and b) I was the only one who could get me out of it.

I had this conversation with Riese

Me: There’s a sandwich at Wildflower Bread Co. that involves roasted sweet potatoes and fresh mozzarella

Riese: Oh that sounds really good

Me: and I wish I had one
AND A FIG CONFIT
Jesus it’s fancy
Maybe you could talk about this dreamy sandwich in the [daily] fix post
Spice it up a little, make it fancy

Riese: Like, “This soccer coach would’ve felt WAY better with a fig confit”
“But she’s gay and pregnant so who cares”

Me: Just like that

I knew I wouldn’t get that sandwich anytime soon. It’s difficult to explain, but the only way I wanted to experience it was alone, except I wasn’t the kind of person who did things alone, at least for the past five or six years I hadn’t been. I was scared and apologetic for existing and definitely not going to go sit at a sandwich place by myself at lunchtime on a weekday. I wanted to be that person! It seemed so easy — you just get dressed, gather up all your stuff, drive over to the place, order, sit down and eat, and drive back home. It’s not complicated.

But when you’re a self-loathing agoraphobe with automobile-related PTSD, everything’s a fucking production. Everything’s complicated. It was exhausting and frustrating. And embarrassing.

So, right, back to the bottom, where I sat looking around and coming to realizations. It took a couple of months to really get shit going, and I fucked up along the way, but eventually I was making sense of me. And fixing things. And mourning less. Or maybe just mourning better? I started making lists and doing things and being proud of myself. I got that fawn tattoo to remind me that I’d done it — that I’d decided to be better.

One weekday I drove to Wildflower and put my bags down at a tiny cramped table in the middle of the cafe. I got in line behind a woman with a little boy who smiled back at me. And I waited my turn. And when I sat there, reading my book and eating this monster of a roasted sweet potato sandwich — with the fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula, fennel, balsamic and the FIG CONFIT — fucking nothing could have made that moment any better. Because I’d made it. And that sandwich was amazing.

 


OPEN THREAD TIME: Tell us your most cherished and important sandwich moments!

Avatar of Stef

Stef Schwartz is the Music Editor at Autostraddle.com. She's a rock'n'roll jack-of-all-trades, vegan crusader and legit professional weirdo. She lives with her cat Scully in the wilds of Los Angeles, where she writes terrible dance music, drinks quality bourbon and misses New York City. Follow her on twitter.

Stef has written 96 articles for us.

41 Comments

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    Laneia and Stef’s posts almost made me cry.

    I’ve been a sandwich maker for a long time–not as much anymore because gluten free bread is expensive and/or difficult to make. But when I was in high school, I would make sandwiches for my gay friend Sam and he was so enamored of the whole process–toasting whole grain bread, slicing tomatoes, carefully arranging the cheese…I miss his complete appreciation for those sandwiches.

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    Oh and during Pride a few years back, my first girlfriend and my friends and I made GLBT sandwiches to take to the festival. They were fantastic. And later than evening, when I was cranky from not eating enough (because Pride) we just basically stuck leftover bacon and mustard between the gluten free bread I had just baked.

    There are very few things better than bacon sandwiches with a pretty girl.

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    This is an obvious place to mention my favorite PBS thing ever, which is a documentary titled “Sandwiches That You Will Like”: http://www.wqed.org/tv/natl/sandwiches/index.shtml

    I knew from the moment I heard the title that I needed to see it, and it took me maybe two years to get to it, but it’s every bit as good as I’d hoped.

    And, uh, you might be able to torrent it. Maybe. Just saying. Support your local PBS affiliate please.

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      Haha! I saw this doc mentioned in, I believe, the Wikipedia article for “sandwiches” (my job often involves writing about food, I wasn’t *just* hungrily Wikipediaing “sandwiches”) and loved and remembered the title ever after. So delighted that someone has seen it and it’s as good as you’d think!

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    I feel like AS is a safe space for pretty much anything, so I’m just going to go ahead and say this: I don’t know where sandwiches fit into my life right now.

    Sure, I have plenty of good sandwich memories: a particularly well-stuffed goat’s cheese panini in Boston; a toastie with a motherfucking OMELETTE in it in Spain; the unparalleled majesty of a late-night chip barm.

    But I will rarely choose to have a sandwich when I’m out. I think I have some deeply-ingrained prejudices against cold food. Like, if I’m going to pay someone to make me food, I want to get a serious amount of energy usage out of the transaction. I want to know that genuine chemical state transitions have occurred via the process known as “cooking,” rather than settling for the product of a cold-cuts and condiments assembly line. Also I enjoy feeling warm.

    And when good sandwiches are made at home, they are stuffed so full that when it comes time for the final flourish – that gentle press down on the top slice, almost like the proud and possessive pat on the head of a much-loved child – most of the filling will start escaping sideways. By the time you’ve worked out the best angle of approach to your bread-based behemoth, it has invariably deconstructed itself into an abstract artform that should more accurately be described as “some food that just happens to have a bit of bread nearby.”

    Is that really a sandwich any more? Is it now an “open sandwich?” What does that even mean? Now the meal has devolved from one composite whole into many distinct bits, am I meant to divide my attention fairly between all the bits? Do I try and ram them all in together? Should I be negotiating some sort of contract to alternate my mouthfuls between my lettuce and my tomatoes?

    (I have similar issues with the definition of salad, but I’ll save the specifics until that particular food group gets its own open thread)

    In summation: sandwiches are complicated, I’m gonna eat soup.

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    My best sandwich was at the beach. It was just bread and cheese but it stands out in my mind as tasting especially delicious for some reason…

    I ate PB&J sandwiches all throughout school and started to hate them. Now if I’m going to eat a sandwich it better be pretty amazing. Like with fococcia bread.

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    Monday mornings are my favorite. Sometimes because I wake up early enough get an extra 15 min curled up with the person I love, or because I have a few minutes listening to her get ready before I get up, but mostly because breakfast sandwich.

    One of us (usually her, because I have a longer drive) will get up early enough to make sandwiches for the both of us. We go through phases: gluten-free toast, egg, turkey, provolone; high-fiber toast, egg, red pepper, spinach, turkey, feta; simple bacon, egg, and cheddar.

    Whatever it is each week, I leave with a smile on my face, knowing that on our separate drives and beginning another week apart, we’re sharing a moment with something as small and silly as a sandwich.

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    Once I had an amazing veggie sandwich on a sub roll, and it was all wrapped up and waiting to be my lunch. But in the morning I had to run some errands and my little dog was in the car with me. I stopped at the internet provider company to complain about my poor wireless signal, and mistakenly left my sandwich sitting unprotected on the passenger seat (in a brown paper bag). When I came back out, my sandwich was gone, and in its place were a few brown paper scraps and a terrier with a guilty look on her face. To add insult to injury, she threw it up on the floor an hour later. That’s my saddest sandwich story.

    On a cheerier note, did you know they put french fries on a bun in England and call it a sandwich? Or a “butty”. It’s the best thing ever.

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    Omg all the sandwich memories! The first sandwich memory that came to my mind is how in elementary school I would eat a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich for breakfast every single day. Seriously awesome. I also ate a ton of peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches in college. Unfortunately, I have stopped buying Nutella b/c I am trying to avoid purchasing products that contain palm oil, so if you can suggest a good alternative then I will adore you.

    I also have a more specific and less happy sandwich memory in which I threw up a quorn fake chicken patty burger thing b/c I was incredibly disgusted with an ex and learned that quorn patties taste really, really bad coming back up, so I have not eaten one since.

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    My girlfriend does most of the cooking in our house. On lazy weeknights, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches are our default dinner. She makes three of them, cuts them into triangular halves, and we eat off the same plate family-style. It’s such a beautiful and blessed thing, to share a simple but filling dinner on a Tuesday night with the woman you chosen to make a home with. Here’s to a lifetime of many more weeknight sandwich dinners with my wifey.

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    A grilled cheese with basil and tomato nicked from the kitchen without permission, cooked over an open fire while watching the sun come up across the misty waters we’d just paddled through. If he had been a certain she, it would have been the perfect day.

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