Joy of sammiches

Aug. 20, 2013 @ 10:01 AM

It doesn’t matter what kind of childhood you had. It might be eating ice cream for supper or watching TV in your boxers, but every kid has something that they vow they will do differently once they get their own home. My best girlfriend Bo absolutely refuses to flip the top sheet upside down when making her bed, so when folded over the blanket it’s right side up.

Mine was tuna fish.

Growing up, we ate a lot of tuna. My mom always used chunk light. It was made simply, with just mayo. Occasionally, she would fancy it up with a hard-boiled egg. In high school mom would fix me a sandwich each morning, and I’d take it to school and eat it for breakfast. 

A few times, eating tuna at a friend’s house, our sandwiches wouldn’t look or taste quite like home. The meat was white, mild tasting, with no fishiness at all.  Instead of chunk light, the sandwiches had been made with white albacore tuna. 

I decided when I did my own grocery shopping, albacore would be the only type I’d buy.

And that’s what I’ve done. The only time there was anything different in my pantry was once when I sent Petey to the store. With the lame man excuse of, “They were out,” he brought home a malodorous off-brand that I’m still convinced was actually cat food.

He lost his tuna buying privileges (it left him heartbroken, I’m sure).

In the 18th century, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich didn’t want to stop playing cards, and slapped some meat between 2 slices of bread.  Thus the sandwich was born.

That guy is a hero.

Reubens, grilled cheese, tomato sandwiches, leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Wonder bread, rye, bagels and Kaiser rolls.  The permutations are limitless, and I love most of ’em.

The Kid doesn’t like ham, and it’s not high on my own list, except for one very specific sandwich that we both adore.

We slather way too much mayonnaise on a fresh crusty roll, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then we layer ham, provolone and juicy red tomatoes. If we don’t have all the fixin’s at home, Jersey Mike’s makes a pretty good version; they have all of the components, and their sub rolls are perfect for it.

Eggplant parmesan makes a delicious sandwich too.  A couple of local Italian Pizzerias (3500 N Roxboro St. and 3823 Guess Rd.) make one that is a real treat.  Their fries are pretty darn good, too.

Roast beef is very high on my list.  But to make a good sandwich, it’s got to be crazy rare. The Kid has a funny way to describe the degree of rareness we like. “Remove the bell, wipe its butt, and throw it on a plate.”

Back in the ’80s, we rented a cottage at Nags Head.  While there, I invented a roast beef sandwich that I still adore.  There’s a deli near my house, and once in a while I’d visit and have them re-create it for me.  The combination of ingredients was so off the wall, they named it “The Weirdo”.

The Weirdo

¼ pound very rare roast beef sliced thinly

4 slices crispy bacon

3 thick slices of ripe red tomato

Alfalfa sprouts

Cream cheese or boursin cheese


Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Onion roll or 2 slices very fresh sourdough bread

Schmear cheese on one slice of bread, and spread mayo on the other.  Season both sides with s&p.  Stack meat, bacon, sprouts and then tomato. Slice in half and serve with cole slaw or chips.

     Sandwiches are genius because regardless of cooking ability anybody can make a good one.  And whatever your mood, there’s a sandwich for it. Last night I was feeling kind of down and out of sorts. So for supper I had my favorite from kindergarten -- a peanut butter and apple jelly sammich.

Thanks for your time.

Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is