There is something special about a perfect sandwich. The right combination of meat, cheese, bread, and toppings is something truly extraordinary. I have spent an unreasonable amount of my time trying to create such a sandwich. Let’s be clear- I never try to compete with those wonders of a sandwich that can only be found in a favorited neighborhood deli, I would never dare enter that competition; I’d fail miserably. I just look to create something more exciting than what can be made by a so-called ‘sandwich artist,’ but not so reaching as to incur costs like owning a personal meat slicer.
I had a great friend in college whose dreams were very similar to mine, and we endeavored together to create the perfect sandwich, and we of course over spent our study break allowance to this purpose. But all work paid off and after a semester of macroeconomics we could explain what long-run consequences inflation might have on demand within a given marketplace while also eating a really amazing sandwich. We called it the “Meunster Sandwich.”
The official make up of this Meunster Sandwich is as follows: Hawaiian Sandwich roll (We needed the actual sandwich sized roll, not the smaller dinner rolls and not the big huge family loaf, this was/is important.), Kraft Mayo, muenster cheese (hence the muenster), and Boars Head Sausalito Turkey. That’s it. Don’t try to put a pickle on it or use mustard. Just the specific bread, meat, cheese and mayo.
The other part of this perfect sandwich was that I would make my friend’s sandwich and she would make mine. Because part of a perfect sandwich is to never make your own. Sandwiches always taste better if someone else has made it. This is scientific fact.
It was the perfect sandwich in every way.
And because every perfect sandwich needs a perfect drink and side, we would always get a gallon of Publix Sweet Tea and a big bag of barbeque potato chips to share without judgment.
Now it’s the perfect meal.
Occasionally when we decided to make this perfect sandwich/meal combination we would go to Publix and they would be out of sweet tea. The trip would then involve filling out a customer complaint, at the very least, and/or an inquiry to customer service to see if this was in fact absolutely true/telling them this can’t be true.
Several times we went and they did not have our Hawaiian Sandwich sized rolls. This really put our whole project to a halt. Despite what you’re thinking, we really couldn’t do this sandwich with the smaller dinner rolls. There would have to have been a formula to figure out, how many dinner rolls equaled a sandwich roll, no one wanted to cut cheese into smaller squares, not to mention feeling weird for eating two, three or four tiny sandwiches compared to just one sandwich, even if we decided it was okay to call it a ‘monster/muenster sandwich.’
And there was one unfortunate day when there was no Sausalito Turkey left. We tried a substitute and the whole sandwich was such a sad replacement disappointment that we started calling the deli in advance to make sure they had the appropriate turkey in stock.
We had created an expectation. An expectation that Publix would understand our need for this Muenster/Monster sandwich and be able to provide its necessary ingredients at any time of the day, and day of the week, regardless of the (college) marketplace demands for Hawaiian sandwich rolls or the restocking schedule of the Sausalito turkey people.
As all good things do end, I eventually graduated and found myself far from my friend, far from our Publix, and eventually outside the boundaries of the perfect sandwich ingredient zone. I’ve lived and looked for them on all sides of the country. Some sides do not have the Sausalito turkey, others don’t have the Hawaiian roll. Almost always I can get muenster cheese, but if I don’t have the rest of the ingredients, using muenster cheese is just a sad reminder of the sandwich I’m not eating.
The disappointment of the unrealized expectation is what cuts. Creates a void where a sandwich should be, even if the expectation of this continued sandwich is unrealistic and wholly self-engineered and propelled.
But I want the sandwich, I’ve come to expect the sandwich, I feel entitled to the sandwich.
I mourn the loss of an ingredient, which is keeping the sandwich from realizing itself as a sandwich.
I hope the sandwich could magically, spontaneously still be THE sandwich, even without a key ingredient.
I mourn again, when I realize it just cannot be, will never be my sandwich.
I want to go back to where the sandwich started, despite travel and cost, because certainly in that town, in that Publix, it is still possible.
I expect the sandwich is being eaten by someone else; someone who doesn’t deserve it, someone who didn’t spend hours of their life creating, perfecting, and misusing ingredients until they uncovered this special universe sandwich secret.
I decide I actually really hated the sandwich, that it was never good for me anyways, and that it would really have only done me harm in the end.
I am certain the Sausalito Turkey people are intentionally creating a shortage of Sausalito Turkey, as part of a widespread conspiracy to keep me away from my sandwich and by extension, all happiness.
Sandwich sadness overwhelms.
Eventually, I stop trying to create the sandwich. I stop casing the grocery store for the “special sandwich turkey.” I stop noticing if the grocery store is stocking the Hawaiian dinner rolls and family rolls, but not the sandwich rolls. I stop leaving customer complaints for this obvious misallocation of product choice and space.
I eat a salad.
And then one day, almost by accident, I buy 7-grain bread, baked fresh and pre-sliced from the bakery. I realize I have half a jar of pesto at home that I should “use up.” I happen to have some Boars Head chicken lunchmeat, Swiss cheese left over from a new recipe I tried, and a fresh tomato. As if by instinct I put it all together and in the toaster oven.
As soon as I take my first bite, I realize I have stumbled upon another sandwich sensation. I realize in many ways this sandwich fulfilled in me something I didn’t know I needed or wanted. It allowed me to broaden my sandwich horizons and use the ingredients I already had. It was a new sandwich, but it fit me better. It got me excited and ready to see what else I could create, instead of relying on the same sandwich day in and day out. It was a gateway sandwich. It was if the universe was telling me, there will always be a sandwich out there for me. If it’s not a muenster it’s a pesto, if it’s not a pesto, it’s going to be something, and it’s going to extraordinary. That’s to be expected.