Chelsea Lin believes any sandwich can>"/>
Chelsea Lin believes any sandwich can benefit from feeling the heat.
I grew up on a steady diet of sandwiches. My childhood lunch consisted of bologna on whole wheat, peanut butter with Grandma's raspberry jam on bagels, or the occasional tuna salad with Miracle Whip, diced onions, and olives (Mom's specialty). In college, when I went through a painfully stereotypical vegetarian phase and subsisted on sad veggie subs padded with iceberg lettuce shreds, one roommate lived on ham sandwiches smothered in yellow mustard, while another ordered plain hamburgers: just bun and burger, maybe some ketchup.
I spent 28 years eating cold, boring sandwiches, until one day, I ordered a Reuben. Why had no one told me sandwiches could be like this? Can you imagine a young life lived without corned beef? Without that beautiful, melty marriage of tangy sauerkraut, salty meat, Swiss, and rye flecked with caraway seeds, with just a hint of sweetness from the Russian dressing? It's practically criminal.
My life--and my love affair with grilled sandwiches--started with that Reuben. Where a cold sandwich is one built out of haste and necessity and best consumed over the sink, a hot sandwich is a meal. Meat, cheese, and condiments are all separate identities inside a cold sandwich, layers of mediocre flavor crammed between two dry slices of bread. Take that same sandwich and grill it--hell, even microwave it--and you've got a synthesis of flavor, one cohesive whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Has anyone ever swooned over a cold cheese sandwich? Would people flock to Paseo if their signature Cuban roast--now more appropriately called the Caribbean roast--wasn't toasted and warm and topped with grilled onions? How many people would order a croque madame at Café Presse without the promise of melted Gruyere and a fried egg? No, no, and no one.
Despite a youth spent devoid of hot sandwiches, this argument is a no-brainer for me. When it comes to sandwiches, make mine grilled and gooey. Now hand me a Reuben, please.
Gwendolyn Elliott likes her sandwiches raw.
Do you like the taste of your own blood mingling with food in your mouth? Do you enjoy ragged flaps of skin from the roof of your tender piehole tickling your every bite? Because that's exactly what would happen to me if you insist on grilling that whopping creation you just made--so wide (I'm talking to you, Specialty's) no human being ever born could wrap lips around it in public with their dignity still intact.
Let's remember one teensy little fact, folks: Toast was invented because bread goes stale, and when you flank your fixings between two slices of it, you're basically eating a crouton sandwich. And it hurts.
To me, I follow the WWDD rule--What Would Dagwood Do? A sandwich is a simple thing, a comforting pile of bread and cheese and lettuce that need not be deconstructed, over thought, or least of all, grilled. Sure, a grilled cheese, when dunked into a steaming bowl of tomato soup, is just the thing, but for the love of God, the grilling should start and end there. If you need some crunch on your sandwich, throw some Lays on it. Voilà.
So keep your panini press off my baguette, your broiler away from my bagel, and don't you dare toast my PB&J! I want my sandwich bread soft, my bagels chewy, my burger buns light and airy, and the roof of my mouth uninjured, just as nature intended.