Al Batt: I’ve drawn a line in this so-called sandwich of mine

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I was careful to look one way before crossing the road.

I pulled the Sunday newspaper from our rural mailbox. It was about my size, but I lugged it to my father who read the comics to me. The funny papers were a wonderland of color and wit. My father added sound effects. He brought “Dennis the Menace,” “Marmaduke,” “Peanuts,” “Beetle Bailey,” “Henry,” “Ferd’nand,” “Mark Trail” and “Dick Tracy” to life. I enjoyed “Pogo” and “Li’l Abner,” although as a kid, I didn’t always understand them. I got a charge out of “Blondie” for one reason. The Dagwood sandwich was a tall, multi-layered sandwich made with a variety of meats, cheeses and condiments. It’s named after Dagwood Bumstead, a central character in the comic strip “Blondie,” who made the towering sandwiches. The creator of that comic strip, Chic Young, said the mountainous pile precariously arranged between two slices of bread was all Dagwood could prepare. Dad ended with Blondie. I knew he’d finished when he’d say, “I’ll see you in the funny papers.” That was another way of saying, “see you later.” If he’d said, “See you later,” I’d have been obligated to say, “Not if I see you first.” A neighbor kid’s parting words were, “See you in jail.” I digress.

A sandwich is important. We have sandwich cookies. We sandwich appointments in and threaten to give another a knuckle sandwich. I consider putting a slice of bread into a toaster and taking out a piece of toast to be a  completed DIY project and find some questions hard to say “no” to. One of them is, “Would you like a sandwich?”

I had an Elvis at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. No, it wasn’t a cardiac incident while seated on the throne. It was a burger topped with peanut butter, mayo, bacon and American-cheddar blend cheese. I’d read on my flight to the Outer Banks that Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich had been peanut butter and banana—sometimes with bacon. I asked the server at Jack Brown’s if she would put a banana slice on my sandwich. She put two.

Another sandwich fave for Elvis was the Fool’s Gold Loaf — a sandwich made with a loaf of sourdough bread, a pound of bacon, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly.

My sister Georgianna liked mustard and sugar sandwiches. I can’t recommend them lowly enough. I like grilled cheese or grilled peanut butter sandwiches with dill pickle slices on them. I enjoy a cheese sandwich with a dill pickle on the side. That provides a workout when opening a new pickle jar. My wife uses one of those jar lid rubber grippers. She calls it her second husband.

I did my research. I asked a stranger at a baseball game what his favorite was. It was a Spam sandwich. I could have stopped there, but I didn’t. The most popular sandwiches I found in various surveys were grilled cheese, chicken, turkey, BLT, Reuben, ham and cheese, and ice cream. Cheesesteaks and radish sandwiches are good and many children grew up on bologna, honey, peanut butter and PBJ sandwiches.

When James Cook visited in 1778, he named them the “Sandwich Islands” (they became Hawaii) in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, who is the inventor of the sandwich. He spent long periods at gaming tables and carried a portable meal of beef between bread.

Somewhere, a guru sits cross-legged on a mountaintop as truth seekers ask whether a hamburger or a hotdog is a sandwich. Or a burrito or a taco. The Oxford Dictionary defines a sandwich as an item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them, eaten as a light meal. That means hotdogs and hamburgers are sandwiches, but when Joey Chestnut ate 76 hotdogs in 10 minutes, that was no light meal. If potato salad, sliced hotdogs, graham crackers and maple syrup on white bread is considered a sandwich, a burrito and a taco should be. This definition leaves the familiar open-faced sandwiches often found in churches out of the sandwich club.

Sandwiches are sustaining. A young woman (20ish) tried to pass me on a walking trail. She couldn’t do it because I’d just eaten a cheese sandwich that made me speedy. That and the fact she was wearing stilt-like high heels.

I’ve drawn a line in the sandwich. If it’s deep-fried on a stick, it’s not a sandwich.

I’ve got to go, my refrigerator is running.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.