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Squid #480
(published April 1, 2010)
Ask the Giant Squid: Tips For Sandwich Mastery
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid,

How do I make the best sandwich?

An unnamed reader
from Preston, WA

Dear Preston,

Cooking as an activity is not a thing one expects of denizens of the deep. And you would be right not to. Sea Creatures as a rule do not bake. We do not fry. We do not broil or toil or moil. We occasionally ceviche, but only during laboratory accidents. Citric acid is rare below the waves.

There are breeds of Foodie Octopus that go on ad infinitum about the merits of boiling certain prey fish over the super-heated water bellowing from geothermal vents. They swear it frees up flavoride molecules, liberates the free radicals, and soothes the T-zone. Some are even known to seek out certain specific volcanic vents for the added tang of sulfurous minerals the burbling earthfumes exude.

Alas, if forced to use terrestrial—which is to say, Human—terms for foodstuffs all that we sea monsters eat would fall into three categories: sushi, tartare, and raw veggies.

The sandwich is unknown to my kind. We have no bread, no cheese. Invertebrates are not widely known for their milk-giving biology, preferring—in some cases—to secrete a thick enzymatic goo rich with proteins and nutrients. It has everything a growing youngling needs, but tastes like "Marmite spread on ass pancakes," according to my cousin Aloysius. The manatee and budong are both docile sea mammals that may be milked, but the milk tastes of forlorn despair, of cow-eyed resignation, and generally makes one drunk on regret. Cheese made from this milk is thick, gray, and hearty. It is more akin to mortar than morsel. Those who eat it sink into an eternal spiral of despair and live out their days staring at their old high school yearbooks, whispering, "I had no idea. No idea how beautiful we all were."

But we here at Poor Mojo's Almanack (and related concerns) are serious about our mandate to provide you, our petitioners, with the highest quality advice possible. I knew nothing of the sandwich, the sammich, the hoagie, the grinder, the submarine (ironic!), or the pita wrap. And so I enlisted my lab to educate me.

Each of my employees prepared what they thought to be the perfect sandwich whilst I read up on the topic. Wikipedia as must always be the case is vague and untrustworthy, like a long-lost uncle at your doorstep asking for the moneys and a place to crash. The UK Independent fares much better with an article about Pret-a-Manger attempting to "cross the pond" (Note: possible sexual slang terminology? Must research. Jarwaun, remove this parenthetical from final draft and enter it into The Black Ledger.) But Pret-a-Manger found that Americans desire "A drier eat," as compared to the British who apparently would like nothing more than to have bread formed from solid mayonnaise.

My research revealed little I had not known from popular culture, especially the cartoons of Dagwood Blondie and Archie Jughead. (His mysterious crown! I must know more about it. Is he king? Mayor? Is it a secret sign? Jarwaun, add this to the research file and strike this parenthetical from the final draft.) A sandwich is two pieces of bread bookending a tidy pile of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, sauces, nuts, twigs and berries. Size varies. Content varies. Sandwich is a medium, much like the printed page or the internet. Sandwich is a verb. Sandwich is a process. Everyone executes the form differently, like any artistic process, and therein lies the appeal.

When one opens a book, turns on the television, watches a cinema, you approach the medium with expectations both known and secret. The artist delivers art with their own ideas about what is proper. Somewhere in between is the experience. Such is the event of the sandwich. There is the sandwich-eater and the sandwich-artist and in-between lies the eating of the food.

My staff were excited to try this experiment. They all had passionate ideas about the ideal sandwich experience. The rules were simple, Devo picked up a selection of specified groceries from a suburban supermarket (There are no markets in Detroit, sadly.) Each artist made enough sandwiches so that every participant could eat one. As to ingredients, anything was game.

Jarwaun, my scribe and typist, made a "peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on white bread" sandwich. He affirmed it was his favorite and signed an affidavit to the matter. The gathered testers agreed it was sweet, but lacked subtlety. Jarwaun found the comments rather condescending and refused to eat the other sandwiches. He took his pile of half-eaten fluffernut sandwiches and retired to the media room to watch "Top Gear."

Molly chose a vegetarian option featuring whole grain breads, sliced land cucumber, sprouted alfalfa, cream cheese, mustard and tomatoes. Rob loudly complained that the sandwich lacked meats, while Devo found the mustard and cream cheese combination unpalatable. Molly proclaimed that the others "wouldn't know a good sandwich if they shat on it," but stayed for the rest of the test.

I tried none of these. Living in a water environ, bread is not a delicacy. Eating bread in my tank I feel like nothing so much as a duck. I do not like feeling like a duck. I offered to make raw dog sandwiches, but Rob patiently explained to me that no one would eat them. Ahh well, more for me.

Devo tried to recreate a sandwich he purchased from Ike's Place in San Francisco during one of his bacchanalian vacations to that gayest of cities. It was of the hoagie grinder sub style. Dutch crunch bread with marinara sauce, meatballs, jalapeno poppers, and mozzarella sticks. Rob enjoyed the sandwich greatly but decided he'd like it more if he had consumed large quantities of marijuana first (If I interpret his slang correctly.) Molly thought it was disgusting and not unlike a "heart-attack on toast." Or, dutch crunch, possibly.

Rob prepared a classic reuben. Rye bread, swiss cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing. He regaled us with story upon story of every memorable reuben he had ever eaten, from the first unto the last. The alpha reuben and omega reuben. According to Rob it's the classic American sammich, while Devo turned his nose up at the pickled cabbage and Molly said corned beef reminded her of socks.

This artistic test ended as so many do in our laboratory: there was shouting and everyone returned to their separate rooms with plates of food.

Reader and petitioner, we can offer you no secret code or formula for sandwich perfection no more than we could offer you a recipe for painting, composing, poetry, or novelizing. You must serve your apprenticeship to the artform like everyone else, and after a thousand eats may you know your own heart in this matter.

I remain,
of this humble Almanack,
The Giant Squid

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