Back when my husband shared office space with fellow scientist and friend, Clarence, they got along just fine. But to this very day, Steve can recall the sandwich envy he felt because of Clarence’s homemade creations.
But that was many years ago. Before Clarence retired and started life anew on his very own sail boat near Honolulu. Naturally, Steve and I would have been foolish to lose track of someone living life on a lovely sailboat in the middle of Paradise. So phone calls, although not frequent, definitely ensued. On one particular call, it was lunch time in Hawaii and our pal was boasting about the sandwich he had just constructed.
“OK, Jan. I call it Clarence’s Hot and Wet Sandwich. You’ll understand why in a sec. You start with two slices of multi-grain bread. Spread each slice with some mayonnaise and spicy brown mustard.” Clarence is like that. Very specific in his descriptions. Particularly when it comes to food. So it wouldn’t just be mustard. It’d be spicy brown mustard.
“Once you’ve got your bread prepped,” he continued, “get two eggs frying in a skillet. Then, just as the whites congeal and turn color, lay fresh spinach over them, onto which you dust dried chile pepper flakes and powdered garlic.
“Then, on top of that, as the spinach wilts, you put a slice of provolone cheese.”
I oohed my approval on the provolone maneuver, noting that it would add just the right layering of smokey flavor.
But Clarence was not through. “Once the egg is almost cooked and the spinach has started wilting and the cheese has almost melted you sliiiide it out of the pan onto the bread. Then, on top of that, you lay on two or three slices of turkey. You can add pickles if you want.”
At this point, I could tell that Clarence’s narration was moving away from recipe construction over to what I call his sell-the-sizzle. He was getting cute: “So you’ve got the other slice of bread on top. Then you cut it in half to make it delicate. (Here comes the pitch!) Then as you’re eating it, oh Jan! You taste the eggs that are still soft in the yellows, mixing with the spinach and the garlic and the peppers. You’ve got all these great tastes and textures, with the little pepper zinging at you and the crunchiness of the whole wheat bread..
“I’m telling you Jan. If you like a wet sandwich, this one’s out of this world.”
Did I mention that he was pairing it with an Erath Pinot?
So just last week, I realized I hadn’t talked sandwich construction with Clarence in quite some time. So I gave him a call, hoping for a little inspiration. He’s no longer living in Paradise, having moved back to the Willamette Valley and married the lovely Norma. I was positive that none of this would impede his culinary creativity when it came to sandwich construction.
And that is where I was completely off course. Not that Clarence was about to disappoint. It’s just that he’s taken the concept in a completely new direction.
ME: So Clarence. Wanna share your latest sandwich creations?
CLARENCE: Well, Jan. I cannot offer anything at this time because I’m trying to eliminate as much bread as possible from my diet.
CLARENCE: However, Norma and I enjoy hamburgers from time to time without the bun. These are especially tasty because we get the visual stimulations, with everything laid out on the plate, that adds to the taste and aromatic stimuli. Of course, we sometimes proceed with a lettuce wrap to contain all of the trimmings — the dark red tomatoes, the Walla Walla Sweet onions and the sharp crispy pickles under a spread of brown mustard. It goes down exceptionally well with a pint of ale of your choice.
That’s Clarence for you. Still trying to sell the sizzle.
For the rest of us, if all this sloppy sandwich talk has put you in the mood for creating your own hand-held, multi-layered masterpiece, I’m not about to let you down. Here are a few concepts to consider. Feel free to adjust and substitute at will.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.
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