A sandwich is a relatively simple concept. Some bread. Some filling. Nothing to it really. While I agree that the idea is simple, I believe that sandwiches are among the most disrespected foods in the world today. As a group, the humility of the sandwich has allowed people to underestimate their potential.
I cannot explain to you how deeply it hurts to see a tower of sloppy construction set out on a plate and called a sandwich. There are so many sins that it is possible to commit when making sandwiches, but the ones below are the ones that irk me the most.
- condiments that aren’t lovingly spread all the way to the edge of the bread
- special ingredients that aren’t placed in an organised, symmetrical fashion to even out their flavour
- overdoing the condiments and making the sarnies soggy
- underdoing the condiments and making the sarnies dry enough to chafe the unsuspecting throat
- carelessly strewn stuffing that you taste in one bite but not the next
- flavours that are not balanced and lean too far into salty or sweet or fatty territory
- textures that have no intrigue or dimension
- excessive and irresponsible use of butter and/or mayonnaise
- bread and filling combos that are ideologically opposed e. g. smoked salmon on top of a macaroon. Yuck.
I am aware at this point that I sound like a slightly crazed fanatic. But this is how seriously one needs to take the proposition of a sandwich. It needs to be thought through and built with clearly defined rationale. There’s got to be a strategy informing the choice of flavours and textures. Sandwiches should be evocative and leave you pleasantly surprised. They should excite your eyes, and your nose and your taste buds. They should caress your palate. All this is possible if you do it right.
This sandwich, ladies and gentlemen, did just that. I woke up one Sunday morning and while I gazed at the cityscape from my window in Lekki, I could not help wishing at that moment that I could be elsewhere for a super quick break from Lagos. By elsewhere I mean specifically, somewhere, anywhere, in France. Wanderlust is an affliction that strikes often, and it happens to me in the context of food. When I am not in a position to ‘wander’ off to my destination of ‘lust’ I recreate those concepts in the kitchen.
Perhaps it was my grocery shopping expedition to the French supermarket La Pointe on Kofo Abayomi the day before; or perhaps it was a craving that had been building up over a long time. Whatever it was, I knew I had to capture the tastes of far off lands in my brunch that late morning.; and this glorious sandwich was the result. When I closed my eyes, I imagined myself walking into a boulangerie, with freshly baked bread on the shelves before me, and a proliferation of casually but skillfully made sandwiches on display just below the counter in the way that they do.
So the only thing I could do was saw a couple of slices carefully off the brown wholegrain bloomer I got from Goodies, spread one slice generously with tapenade, layer on some cheese, and then finish off with whirls of jambon sec and the little gem lettuce. The result? Firm but acquiescent support from the bread, confident saltiness from the anchovies and olives in the tapenade (which also offered the right amount of moisture), quiet strength from the dry cured ham, a bit of piquant from the cheese, and a delicious sweet crunch from the little gem lettuce. In choosing the cheese, I had some brie in the fridge which I could have used, but I felt that would have put the salt component into overdrive so I stuck to the cheddar instead.
I cannot describe to you just how happy I was in that moment. It looked straightfoward enough but eating it was anything but mundane. The ultimate transformative sandwich. Around the world in eighty chews. Travelling by taste; it is really a thing :).