So there are some articles being shared about tomato sandwiches. Yes, I know I should let others have their opinions and not flex my food-critic muscle just to put down said opinions in favor of uplifting my own. Let’s not forget, however, my job is to give you my opinion, and you can take it or leave it, with all that matters being whether or not you continue to read this column. Condemn me for my words or praise my beliefs because they may mirror your own, but either way the tomato sandwich is serious business.
We have a global growing season with tomatoes being always available. Isn’t that right, Captain Obvious? Yet you, the tomato lover like me, know that when tomatoes and peaches are in season, being locally grown makes all the difference in the world. If they happen to be homegrown, even better.
So when magazine articles start popping up, each claiming to be more “Southern” than the last, I begin to yawn at the colloquialism and slang found in the text. Guilty of it myself, I understand the irony of my unsolicited judgement. But if you don’t agree with me and my view of the tomato sandwich, I’ll come at you like a banty rooster on a 10-hour bourbon bender fresh off a Jones County family reunion.
The one thing we have to consider is the legitimacy of the tomato sandwich as being a strictly Southern tradition. I hate to break it to you, but it isn’t. One of my salespeople, let’s call her Nikki, from the great state of Oregon, recently told me (upon my inquiring) that she has tomato plants taller than her. She only uses white bread and Hellmann’s, but apparently doesn’t toast the bread. That last part about the bread was a little unclear, as I could not completely understand all of her yankee talk, but I think I got close.
If there are tomatoes, humans will make sandwiches with them. It’s a fact. If tomato sandwiches didn’t exist, you’d have to create them. Remember the punting game when you were a kid? You’d punt the football in an attempt to drive your opponent backward and he’d have to punt it from where he caught it? Yeah, that’s not a real game, but we all played it without being taught. Tomato sandwiches happen. There is no stopping them from finding a plate, no matter the latitude.
Somewhere in the Deep South there is a restaurant with some hotshot of a jackass who is pining for a James Beard Award. He’s trying to be endearing with his own “take” as he calls it, of the classic “Southern” tomato sandwich in hopes of winning “Best Chef: Fake Rural.” God love him, he’s probably making something delicious after spending someone’s small fortune training at the Culinary Institute of America, but he is putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
There will be some type of special bread with aioli and pink Himalayan salt. It will be fancy, it will be delicious, it will be $13 and it will defeat the purpose. People will rave about it and spend their hard-earned money on a dollar-and-a-half worth of food at most. They will call him a genius. He will win the award, because cooking (and music) are now contests.
It’s white bread. There is no other.
Also, you toast it. In a toaster. Don’t make the sandwich and toast the outside on a griddle. Toast the bread, both sides. The thought of un-toasted bread makes this article fall apart and stick to the roof of my mouth.
Small tomatoes won’t do. By small, I mean cherry tomatoes. Everything else works. Creoles, Better Boys, beefsteaks … they are all in-bounds. Tomatoes should not be discriminated against. The best tomato sandwich I ever had was with a Cherokee Purple. I love ugly tomatoes for anything. This one was atrociously ugly. What a swan it turned out to be.
Choose any with a deep, dark color. Green ones are for frying, only. White meat tomatoes have no flavor. Look for color darker than orange and you’ll be on track.
I’ve talked about my big three — Duke’s, Hellmann’s and Blue Plate — but the truth is there are plenty other mayonnaises out there worth using. Most of the people who like Miracle Whip have been shamed into not being able to admit it. Those poor guys can’t catch a break. It’s like they are the skim milk of sandwich spreads.
It’s widely accepted the tomato sandwich needs real mayo. My top three may not be the only ones, but they’re certainly safe bets.
Salt and pepper, heavy on the pepper, is a must. Simple is better. If you have a garden full of vine-ripened tomatoes and a few bags of Bunny bread, imagine the amount of people you could feed. They say Jesus fed the multitudes with an armload of bread and a handful of fish. Just think how far reaching that dinner would have been if He were lucky enough to be standing next to a tomato field.
I learned a long time ago to never trust a girl who doesn’t like grits. It’s a rule that, to this day, I must live by. I then ran off and married, some may say by design, to a girl who doesn’t eat raw tomatoes. That may sound awful, but to me it’s like winning the lottery. More tomato sandwiches for me, please.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).