Sunday, January 11, 2009

Do They Serve Tea On This Space Ship?

Yesterday was one of those days were lunch was a critical tipping point and yet impossible to decide what, exactly, it should be. I wanted Japanese- nice and clean and a soothing cup of miso soup. My husband wanted anything but Japanese. We tossed offers at each other like tennis balls lobbed across a net and then ended up someplace we’d never been just as a way of compromise. The restaurant we choose, almost at random as we passed it doing 40MPH, is the latest addition to a local chain of old-school cafes. You can get a burger or a slice of pie, a milkshake or breakfast at dinnertime. We sat in a booth with a blown-up picture from the 1940’s, of a crowd of people waiting to get on one of Seattle’s ubiquitous ferries, sailors and ladies in hats, everyone waving to the camera. I ordered the “Kentucky Club” sandwich, because… well, that’s the sandwich of my people. I didn’t even know there was a Kentucky Club. And what arrived: toasted white bread, Swiss cheese, slice of tomato, leaf of iceberg, bacon, grilled chicken breast and avocado, made me think that whoever had concocted that name had never actually been to Kentucky. First of all, grilled chicken breast? Really healthy for a region named for a well-known chain of fried chicken places. And secondly and perhaps most egregiously: Avocado. Seriously, I don’t think they even let avocados over the state line.

The sandwich was fine, but it launched an intense conversation about what exactly would be on the sandwich of my people. I came up with a semi-fictional pulled pork sandwich with 3-way Cincinnati chili, tomato and slaw and Miracle Whip, but this was just the sandwich of Boone County. My husband and I discussed the sandwich of his people, Moscow Idaho. He thought of trout and venison, and Wonder bread, but then decided that his local hamburger stand, Zipps, had nailed it best- three hamburger patties on a French roll, ham, fried egg and use a French fry to scrape the lettuce and tomato off. Then we started discussing the sandwich of our people in Seattle. I spent a long time trying to decide from all the multitude of culinary influences around here, but then realized… it’s a sandwich on menus all around here: open faced hot Dungeness crab with Tillamook cheddar and a couple tomatoes. It’s becoming rarer to locate, having been displaced by tortas and bahn mi and crepes, but it’s a really good descriptor of Seattle- and served warm and oozy and comforting, exactly what we need to fortify ourselves in this city built on drizzle.

It was as I came to this conclusion that I overheard the conversation at the table next to us, the man saying thoughtfully, “But if the alien ship came again, would you get on it?” and the woman, a 50ish looking lady with short dark hair and not a whiff of crazy in her appearance, said, “I don’t know, I’d have to see which race they were.”

They paid for their lunch and left and I realized that, yet again my preoccupation with food had caused me to miss the good stuff.

So I guess the question is: What is the sandwich that best evokes your people? Or, what sandwich would lure you onto the alien space ship?

I think this would do it for my husband- white bread, mayo, unholy green pickles made by his auntie and sliced hot dogs.

9 Comments:

Blogger Hal said...

When I think of a Kentucky sandwich, I think of a Hot Brown. Or, perhaps a quintessential Kentucky food, burgoo.

That being said, I'm from Kentucky and Hot Brown's are *not* my favorite, and I grew up too far away for Burgoo to be a staple of my every day life.

(I grew up in Lexington, and spent the last three years I lived in Kentucky--I live in Indiana now--in Kenton County, so I immediately began salivating at the mention of a Three Way. Actually, I prefer mine five ways--trade me the beans for some garlic, a treat I've only found at Dixie Chili, and I'm pleased as can be).

So, to get me on a spaceship? You can't go wrong with a really good BLT (with a thin layer of Mayo).

January 12, 2009 at 5:08 AM  
Blogger Debra said...

For me- it would have to be thick slices of turkey breast, savory stuffing, some cranberry sauce and just a little mayo on wheat.
There's a great spot fairly close by (Big G's) that has this on the menu. I think it's called The Miles Standish sandwich...something close to that...

January 12, 2009 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

I just finished reading your book and as a journalist who lived in London and always relished in my dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu, was nearly moved to tears.
Thanks for giving me a glimpse into that world!

January 12, 2009 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

I just finished reading your book and as a journalist who lived in London and always relished in my dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu, was nearly moved to tears.
Thanks for giving me a glimpse into that world!

January 12, 2009 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

I just finished reading your book and as a journalist who lived in London and always relished in my dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu, was nearly moved to tears.
Thanks for giving me a glimpse into that world!

January 12, 2009 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger Carsten said...

There's a really nice piece of writing about the meaning of food (lunch, actually) here: http://cupcakesandliquor.blogspot.com/2008/12/in-defense-of-lunch.html

It's a similar pursuit to yours in this post.

January 12, 2009 at 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a northwesterner for sure! But the sandwich of Moscow is from Zip's, but my people here say it is the Papa Joe-1 patty, ham, american cheese, lettuce and 1000 island, with gems of course. At least that was my lunch there last Thursday! Saturday we made open-face crab salad sandwiches on english muffins with Tillamook special white cheddar melted and toasty. My people in Boise say their quintessential sandwich comes from Big Bun Drive-In and involves finger-steaks, shredded lettuce, no cheese, and horseradish-mayo. Who can argue with truth?
Michelle

January 13, 2009 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

For me, the lure would be a great BLT. (See the next post...)

Thanks for the link to cupcakesandliquor.com

January 14, 2009 at 3:04 PM  
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