The fine art of the tomato sandwich

Food has powerful connotations.  People associate foods very strongly with good times or with bad times. I bet a lot of Americans, just reading the words, “pumpkin pie” would think of Thanksgiving.  Or smelling the combination of oranges and clove, they would think of Christmas.

In southwest Mississippi a lot of folks consider the tomato sandwich – with or without bacon but usually sans lettuce – as being iconic of summertime.  Around these parts you can probably get in an argument about a proper tomato sandwich faster than you could about football or politics – and that’s saying something!  But here’s how I like mine.

Take one slice of bread.  Some folks like two pieces of bread per sandwich, but I like my tomato sandwich open-faced.  Some folks insist on white sandwich bread, but I like Ezekiel bread – a sprouted whole grain bread.  Toast the bread until hard but not black.  If you do not toast it, the tomato juice will make the sandwich a soggy mess before you can choke it down.

Slather the  toast with some mayonnaise. This is another opportunity to get into an argument because some folks are more adamant about their mayo than they are about their religion.  A lot of people claim it’s not mayo unless it is Blue Plate brand.  Nothing else will do.  Saying the word, “Hellmann’s” can get you shot.

One relative newcomer in the field of mayo is McIlhenny’s Tabasco brand mayo that is infused with their iconic hot sauce.  That does make a very fine tomato sandwich, but lately I have enjoyed whichever brand of olive oil-based mayo is cheapest and Hung Foy Sriracha as the saucy foundation of my tomato sandwiches.

Now that the foundation is laid, we come to the Main Event – the tomato.  First off, a store-bought tomato is tasteless and totally not worth messing your bread up with.  You need to get a good slicing tomato from a farmers’ market or grow your own.  It can be a smaller tomato if that’s all you can get, but I think a 12-16 ounce fruit makes the best sandwich.  If you can manage to find a tomato large enough that one slice covers the entire piece of bread – that’s optimal!

Some folks like thinly sliced tomato, but I like moderately thick slabs of a really acidic tomato like a Creole or a Better Boy.

Once I  get the toast, mayo, sriracha, and tomato piled up I might dust it lightly with a little extra salt or lay on 3-4 slices of bacon.  And here we are back at another source of contention.  Some folks like the bacon barely cooked still slick with grease and flopping around all slithery-like.  I do not.  I like my pig strips cooked till crispy so that they add the perfect crunch as well as the salty bacon taste.

Now, if you’ve constructed this masterpiece properly, you can take a bite and tomato juice will run down your arms and drip off of your elbows.  Mmmmm summertime!

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