What’s Your Favorite Sandwich?
Die by the sword, live by the sandwich.
There’s an old adage that says if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. It’s most likely cribbed from the Book of Matthew (KJV: “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”), although a parallel origin may be from Aeschylus’ tragedy Agamemnon, spoken by Queen Clytemnestra as she murders the titular sovereign: “By the sword you did your work and by the sword you die.” I think Aeschylus had the pithier phrasing, or maybe Robert Fagles is just a gifted translator, but either way it’s a history-laden way of saying “fuck around and find out” — live by violence and you’ll end that way too. Anyway, I cover and write about violence a lot, and I’ve had enough death threats that I’ve contemplated what it would be like to die that way. (I started seriously collecting swords while writing my book about online Nazis; not a coincidence). It’s still vanishingly unlikely that I’ll get murdered, though it’s been an intrusive thought since the first time the FBI showed up at my door to warn me. But in the interim, even if I die by the sword, I’d rather live by the sandwich.
Which brings me to my question: what’s your favorite sandwich? Your most memorable or nostalgic sandwich experience? The tastiest bread-blanketed bite you’ve ever had? Where did you have it and with whom and when? Do you have a go-to sandwich, your daily bread? I want to hear the answers to all these questions. Tomorrow is the first formal post for this newsletter’s most monumental project: going through Wikipedia’s List of Notable Sandwiches in alphabetical order, essay by recipe by story by interview. Send me an email, or sound off in the comments, and if your favorite sandwich is on the List of Sandwiches, I may reach out when your delicacy of choice comes up for review.
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As to my favorite sandwich: I’ll keep it brief. But in the very early and halcyon days of my brief marriage we lived in the wonderful bougie neighborhood of Prospect Heights. There was an impossibly hip, spare, clean and overpriced fish market called Mermaid’s Garden. You could get these ruby-tinted scallops or a single lump of monkfish or one or two oysters — displayed on the half-shell, on a delicate bed of pearly ice. Or you could do what we did, almost every weekend of that first year, when we loved each other so fiercely: you could get a pan bagnat, an acidic flaked-tuna sandwich with egg and capers and red onion on perfect bread. (An excellent recipe to make at home is here.) This was a sublimely messy sandwich, even more so because it was a surprise, coming from such pristine environs. You could carry it out of that immaculate shop that hardly even smelled like fish and immediately dive into its pungent, heady bouquet, which cut through all pretense. You could, unable to resist, bite and bite til the whole stuffed loaf was gone. You could feel the sun rich as yolk and the day sharp as a caper and know the two of you were pressed together as perfectly, elegantly, expertly as that sandwich, and sigh with satisfaction, and hold odorous hands all the way home.