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Tomato Sandwich Tutorial

September 5, 2007

When I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, back in 1989, I was perhaps as unprepared as any woman could have been to live in the South.  I was 24, a freshly-minted Ph.D. in English, riding high on the thrill of snagging a tenure-track job.  I was also Idaho through and through.  My 4 years in Ohio had left no trace on the wild-westiness of my upbringing, and I had no idea what I was about to get into.

I learned, slowly and imperfectly, that I would never, never understand Southern culture, and that Southerners, although on the whole a lovely and charming people, would never, never understand Western culture.  But still I fell madly in love with an irresistably Southern Southerner, and she taught me how to make tomato sandwiches.  You should know, too.

Start with fresh, ripe, homegrown tomatoes.  Pick them yourself and wash them gently.

Toast some good-quality storebought white bread.  I know, I don’t usually advise you to use store bread, but only store bread will do.  It shouldn’t be the very cheapest kind, but don’t get all fancy and use ciabatta or artisanal sourdough.  Just a nice squishy white sandwich loaf will do.

 Spread your toast with Best Foods or Hellman’s mayonnaise.  Don’t think that vegennaise, or homemade aioli, or (God forbid!) Miracle Whip or Sandwich Spread or salad cream will work.  It won’t.

Slice your tomato with a serrated knife into lovely juicy rounds about 3/4 of an inch thick.

Pave one slice of toast with tomato, using ingenuity to get a single layer of tomato covering as much of the bread as possible without overlapping.  Salt and pepper your tomato generously.

Cover with your other slice of toast.  Don’t try to eat this without a plate.  Juice will drip.

And there you have it:  the sandwich which defines synergy–the interaction of the simple ingredients creates something much bigger than the constituent elements.  The essence of summertime in a hand-sized package. 

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Saundra permalink
    September 9, 2007 2:10 pm

    Well, that’s one way of doing it 🙂

    For a little variety — and a lot more decadence — this is the kick I’ve been on since returning from Atlanta and with really good tomatoes available. IOW, I’m addicted and already dreading the days when *good* tomatoes won’t be available.

    – 2 slices rye bread (my preference is extra sour rye, but YMMV)
    – *Good* sharp cheddar cheese (my favorite is Cougar Gold, but Tillamok Sharp is delicious, too)
    – Tasty ripe tomato
    – A little butter
    – Sprinkle of pepper (optional)

    Take two slices of rye bread & spread one side of each with a little butter. Toast under the broiler with the rack closer to the center than the top (this is important for the cheese step). Remove the bread, spread the other sides with a little butter, and toast.

    While the bread is toasting, slice the cheese to desired thickness. You might be able to get the tomato sliced, too. The beauty is that the two ends of the tomato and the juice aren’t really suitable for use on the toast, so you can make an appetizer of those ends and the juice while the bread is toasting & the cheese is melting 🙂

    Once the bread is toasted on both sides, put your sliced cheese on one side of each slice, and place back under the broiler so the cheese melts to your desired meltiness.

    Remove, put your sliced tomato on top of each piece of cheese toast (which allows for double the tomato pleasure since you’re making open-faced sandwiches), and prepare for a little piece of heaven 🙂 Sometimes I grind a little pepper for the top of the tomato and sometimes I don’t — that’s a personal preference kind of thing.

    Some folks might want to run things under the broiler again once the tomato is on, but I prefer the combo of the coolness of the room temp tomato with the warmth of the melted cheese and the crunchiness of the toasted bread — YMMV.

  2. melyndahuskey permalink*
    September 9, 2007 8:49 pm

    Ooh, that sounds good. It’s not a tomato sandwich, of course, but it sounds pretty fabulous, nonetheless! I might add some extra-grainy Dijon mustard on the cheese–shooting the sandwich moon!

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