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.
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.
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.
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
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…
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!