Joy in a Sandwich Stack

There are not many exceptional experiences one can talk about when one eats at a fast food restaurant.

There is that basic requirement that the food tastes consistent. A large food chain like McDonald’s fails every day from outlet to outlet. You’ve tasted it before. Fries that have been left out too long, too cold, too soggy. A McSpicy with shredded lettuce all over the burger box rather than in the burger. A burger that has sat too long in the warmer and just doesn’t taste good any longer.

But there are times when you do find a gem. That one such day was on the 19th of August at the Subway at The Verge.

I only order one kind of sandwich at Subway, and that’s the Italian sub with onion sauce.

I confess that I’ve not had a Subway in at least a year. Although the ingredients used are fresh, I don’t particularly feel the fresh tasting quality of the vegetables. How can you? Ingredients that have been cut and left sitting on the counter – no doubt refrigerated – have lost the freshness of a vegetable that has been sliced or torn within the last 5 minutes. It’s simply not the same.

Eating a sandwich at a Subway has not been particularly worth mentioning. At one time, I ate most frequently from the Holland Village outlet due to a high number of meetings I had in that vicinity. The sandwiches were always disappointing.

From a poorly sliced six inch loaf, to one that has too much sauce splashed all over it, I’ve eaten sandwiches that fall apart, and and at the very end, become a soggy piece of mush. Not very pleasant at all, and best forgotten.

So it was with surprising joy that I ate at the Subway at The Verge. A youngish looking middle-aged Indian lady made my sandwich. She was pretty fast and served me efficiently. She sliced my sandwich precisely into half and not too far through, but far enough for her to open it like a book and lay down the ingredients with ease.

Eating the sandwich was a joy. With every bite I took, I was increasingly impressed. Not a single thing fell out. I could pick up and place down the sandwich without fear I would have to pick it up again part by part. There was just enough onion dressing to lift the sandwich from being boring, but not so much it was soaked up by the bread.

Stacking a sandwich is not easy. It takes practice. I know because for nearly a year, all I did was make sandwiches.

You have to use a limited amount of ingredients to make a sandwich look big and appetizing. It all begins with the perfect cut of a loaf of bread.

For me it was the baguette. I would place the baguette on the board and look at how it sat. Sometimes, the bakers did it right and it would sit right and squat. Sometimes they didn’t and it would naturally fall to one side. So it was there that I determined how to slice the bread so that it could sit naturally and allow me to fill it right.

Slice it wrong, and you have a hard time repairing this. The stacking is where all the repairing takes place. And you have to make your sandwich look really full of ingredients, while using the least amount. Part of the trick was in how you tear the lettuce. You want to tear it in such a way it is easy to eat, crunchy and ends up rounded, with full body rather than flat.

I also discovered that by laying the ham in a certain way, when I cut it, it would look like a lot of ham in the cross section. This made for a really delicious looking sandwich.

It was this way that I made a ham and cheese sandwich. In a whole baguette and divided up, after stacking it up and assembling it, into three parts with a cocktail toothpick stabbed into the centre.

There were times when I failed, particularly at the beginning of my short-lived sandwich making career. But as I broke down the steps and worked out how it looked if I were to do this and that, I began to try and make something simple look great.

It is a joy to create a nicely made sandwich. When my pre-made sandwiches flew off the shelf within fifteen minutes of opening for lunch time, I knew I had done it right. And it took the stress off me, making hot sandwiches in the back for hungry impatient customers.

But I think it is an even greater joy to let someone know they made an excellent sandwich. So I told the Indian lady.  She deserved it.

Unfortunately, the stacking techniques taught at Subway renders the sandwich flat and not at all looking like that great looking thing in the pictures. The lettuce is shredded, so again, you immediately take away the natural body that it could give the sandwich.

I hope the Indian lady knows what made her sandwich work, because only then can she become consistently good at it. If you start to look at the sandwich-making skill as a science, then it becomes a technique that can be taught and replicated again and again, because there is a reason and logic behind every action.

Happy eats!

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