We can make sandwiches

Andreae Prozesky brings you the sandwich-y goodness.

Back-to school time, then, is it? Sure, it’s all fun and games now, all Georgestreety weekends and book-buying frenzies, but sooner or later you’re going to have to buckle down and get some work done.

If you’re anything like I was in my university days, about eighty per cent of that work is going to get done in the ten-day periods between bouts of exams.

My beer-dominated college diet may have fuelled me through some thrilling ideological debates, but it did little for my overall health. I may have had enough stamina to get myself to class some of the time, but not a whole lot more than that.

I scraped by, don’t get me wrong, but I would have done a lot better if I had written my sundry papers after having eaten something other than chocolate-covered coffee beans.

You, my friends, can learn from my mistakes.

The problem with college life is that it’s so much fun. I wouldn’t for one second suggest cutting out the fun. But look at it this way: you have to take care of yourself if you want to keep up the fun and still write the odd essay.

When time is limited though—like, say, when you have a 20-page paper due in 24 hours—there’s not much time to sit down and have a decent meal. This is why you need to learn which foods can safely and neatly be eaten with one hand. That way a few minutes of prep work and you can be holding a tidily-stuffed sandwich in one mitt, while wielding a highlighter or tapping out Morse code on your laptop with the other.

Sandwiches are perfect one-handed meals. You can pack all manner of nutrients into them, they require no utensils to consume, and you can put one together without having to cook anything. If you’re careful, you can even make them so they don’t drip all over your notes and your keyboard while you get your thoughts out and in order.

The biggest mess-maker in ­today’s sandwich is the tomato.

I know, I know, making a sandwich without tomatoes is a heretical act as far as some people are concerned. But as soon as those watery tomato guts come in contact with mayonnaise or mustard, you’re going to have drips going all down your sleeve, into your computer, and onto your books that you were planning to re-sell in three months anyway. With your clothes dirty, your computer short-circuited, and your future finances in jeopardy, you’ll be completely screwed.

So if you must have tomato in your sandwich, for heaven’s sake take a few seconds to scrape the guts out first. Plum (or “Roma”) tomatoes are fairly free of guts, and they tend to be a little less mealy than a lot of the tomatoes we get around here anyway. Just cut them in half horizontally and give the two halves a squeeze over your compost. The seedy goo should come right out.

Greenery can cause problems too, if it’s all wee little pieces like the fancy salad blends that you get these days. They’re delicious, but not one-handed-meal material. It’s best to go for one big, flat lettuce leaf.

Or, if that’s not fancy-pants enough for you, what about sprouts? They may be little bits, but they hold on to one another like paper clips, and chances are they’ll stay just where you put them. You can grow them yourself, too, even if you’re trapped in a dorm room with no access to dirt or a garden hose (e-mail me and I’ll give you the low-down.)

Bread, of course, is a concern. With your standard sliced bread you’ve got all kinds of opportunity for little bits to escape. Some sort of wrap-style sandwich is much better suited for one-handed eating. Pita bread is a great choice. You can get whole-wheat pitas everywhere, and eating them will make you feel like you’re doing something sensible.  Instead of snipping them into two half-circle pockets, it’s even better if you fold them up falafel-style: make an opening at the top of the circle of pita, and tear along the seam until the whole thing opens up. Place your fillings in there, flip the loose half back over the filling-holding half, and roll the whole thing up into a cylinder of sandwichy goodness. You can get Indian-style nan bread at some of the supermarkets now, and they make for excellent wraps. Personally I wouldn’t go for grocery-store flour tortillas though; they have a gummy, clammy quality that I can’t stand …unless they’ve been toasted, and then you’re into grilled-cheese territory. Mm!

There you go. Now go out and have fun, confident in your ability to schedule study and dinner for the same slot and still get in a few nutrients.

SANDWEECH IDEAS:

For a non-sloppy sandwich, choose nice, thick spreads and big, flat (or stringy and tangly) fillings.

1.    Hummus (make your own or pick some up) with thinly-sliced green apple and alfalfa sprouts.

2.    Spreadable cream cheese (or, even better, goat cheese) with chopped-up roasted red peppers (you can buy them in a jar or roast them in a roaster oven), leftover roast chicken (the ones you get at the grocery store are fine) and a few big lettuce leaves.

3.    Black bean spread (whiz a half-tin of black beans with a bit of garlic, some cumin, juice of half a lime, salt, and pepper in the food processor) on one side, mashed-up avocado on the other, and tomato (seeds squeezed out) in the middle.

4.    Nutella with drained canned Bing cherries (let me specify whole-wheat sandwich bread for this one. Let me also classify this as dessert).

5.    Peanut butter and bottled curry paste with spinach leaves. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s really delicious. I made fun of my fourth-year university roommate for this one, but he was right, it’s awesome.

Send your questions, comments, and one-handed suggestions to dreae@thescope.ca

3 comments

  1. Peedar · July 13, 2013

    Good ideas, but I feel I should add my two cents:

    The key to a PERFECT sandwhich is structure. It’s all in how you build it that helps to prevent mess.

    The one leaf of lettuce is key, but what if you add peppers? They tend to go flying out of Hava Java lunches because they are not directly next to the bread (I was eating one today while reading this article). You see, you use the sauce and the freshness of the bread to hold the peppers in. A layer of sprouts or lettuce after, re-enforces this hold. Extra sauces can go in the middle of the sandwhich to allow maximum mayo (or whatever turns your crank) content on the bread. The sauces in the middle mix with the veggies and almost creates a salad effect.

    It’s funny, if I order a sandwhich and it has everything that I want on it in the right proportions, it’s the messiest thing ever. If I make it myself… only crumbs.

  2. dreae · July 13, 2013

    Peedar, you are very right about architecture being key. I’m going to try out your mayo-in-the-middle idea. I have developed my own method for eating exploding-with-veggies Hava sandwiches, and although it’s effective, it requires a great deal of concentration. Not to be attempted while slumped over a laptop.

    Further, on sandwich architecture: when I worked at the Navarino in Montreal we used to make awesome tuna-salad sandwiches on croissants – the squishy interior of the croissant, paired with its solid-yet-pliable exterior, made it the perfect holder for otherwise splat-making foodstuffs. I don’t think this would work with an actual good croissant like a buttery, flaky Georgestown model (which would require no adornment anyway). But with a trashier, puffier, breadier supermarket croissant it would be worth a try for your more mayonnaise-y fillings. You just have to be careful not to overfill. Not a problem, really, since supermarket croissants tend to be huge, leaving ample edge-space.

    Okay. Hungry now.