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Appetites and Afterthoughts

The world’s best sandwich

Enjoy summer with a freshly made tomato sandwich — and a t-shirt

Nothing says summer like a fat, juicy, ripe tomato, and the abundance of varieties now available in our local farmers’ markets. And almost everyone seems to have a tomato story of some kind, or their favorite preparation of this summer fruit. I like to keep a bowl of small varieties — Tiny Tims; red, yellow, and green grape; or red pear — on the counter and pop them as snacks throughout the day. My husband has such fond memories of his dad’s backyard-grown beefsteak tomatoes, against which he has pitted every other tomato he’s had since. 

And then there’s the heralded tomato sandwich. In our family, it’s a thick slice of Bay Area artisan bread (I like Acme walnut or olive), toasted, and slathered (important operative verb here) with mayonnaise (and being the food snob I can be, I like my homemade version). Sometimes I add avocado, but it’s never imperative, but (fancy) salt (pink, flakey, or truffle) is, along with freshly cracked pepper. For my never-food-picky husband, it’s just salt (Morton’s would be fine).

I even caught a scene recently on Prime’s new Reacher series, where the local barber provides tomato sandwiches to the crew investigating homicides. When one asks instead for a salad, the barber quips something along the lines of “you’ve got one there with lettuce and tomato in between two slices of white bread” — a good introduction to the sandwich below by our former contributor Ernest Beyl, whose absence is felt every month as we put this paper together.

— L. Majer

When I was a kid, I created a sandwich that I believed then to be the best in the world. After all these years I still stick to that assessment. 

This is not a fancy sandwich; not a flakey croissant perhaps, stuffed with foie gras, baby lettuces and maybe a dash of balsamic vinegar, nor a mile high Dagwood for those of you who remember the Blondie comic strip. 

This is a no-nonsense sandwich. I think the British statesman, Lord John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who is credited with inventing the concept in the 1700s, would like this one.  

So here it is — The world’s best sandwich. 

* * *

First, get two slices of white, foamy commercial bread. As a kid, I discovered that the popular baker’s brand, Wonder Bread, was best for my sandwich.  

Now, smear one side of both slices of that bread with mayonnaise right from the jar. You don’t have to get fancy and make your own mayonnaise for this. Best Foods or Hellman’s or whatever works for you is just fine.

Now you need a large, ripe tomato. I mean large and I mean ripe. Avoid those pale pink, hard-as-a-rock bocci balls frequently being passed off as tomatoes. Get your tomatoes from a good farmers’ market or from your mother’s garden. That’s what I did when I was a hungry youth. 

Slice that big red baby into four, maybe six, round hunks. Now put half the sliced tomato on one side of the bread and half on the other, right over the mayonnaise. Salt and pepper the tomato, and be lavish about it.

Now you are ready for the onion. 

Use a large, white or yellow or purple onion — a good, heavy one that will make a thick slice about the same size as the bread and tomato slices. The onion slice should be about one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch thick.

Place that onion slice on top of one of the tomato-topped pieces of bread, then put the two halves together so you have a slice of bread, slice of tomato, slice of onion, slice of tomato and finally a slice of bread. Place this sandwich on a large round plate. A platter works even better. Handle the sandwich carefully. You don’t want a lot of your mayonnaise to squirt out.

Now get a stool from your kitchen, a thick towel, and a roll of paper towels — an entire roll, please. You’re going to need it.

Take all of the above out into your backyard or your driveway. Sit on the stool. Spread the towel over your lap. Place the roll of paper towels at your feet. Place the plate or platter with your tomato-onion sandwich across your towel-covered knees. Pick up your sandwich gently in both hands. Prop your elbows on your spread knees. Lean forward and open your mouth as wide as you can. Insert the sandwich and bite. That’s all there is to it.

You will find that mayonnaise and tomato juice will drip down your arms. That’s O.K. Enough of this will get into your mouth. I should have reminded you to wear a t-shirt.

Visit marinatimes.com and northsidesf.com for more columns by Ernest Beyl.

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