The Perfect Sandwich

sandwich-cover-550px-300x295I recently gave a studio tour to 40+ photograph students from Long Beach City College. For the past few years I’ve been a proud member of the advisory committee for the photography department, and it tickles me to no end to meet with the students.

This year’s group was particularly bright and full of insight, asking tons of valuable questions that ran the gamut from studio management and self-promotion to the logistics of photographing food. I made sure to have the books we’ve shot on the table for the students to see, and later someone asked me about The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches It was at this point that I admitted, like I always do when people ask, that I actually took one or more bites of every single sandwich from this book.

Yes, you read that right. I tasted every single sandwich. Because this was actually work, I’ve prepared a highly scientific flow chart to show you the studio’s exact process.

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NathansHotDog.jpg My dad was a two job guy.  We lived in a representative, working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, which was to me, the paradise of the world.  Representative I learned years later meant not just Jewish people, like us, but an equal mix of almost everything else.  The working class is obvious.

My dad worked at a brokerage house on Wall Street as a runner from 9 to 3.  That was his first job.  His second job was at the Morgan Annex branch of the US Post Office, in mid-town Manhattan.  He had started at the PO as a teen-ager, and was in it for the longest possible haul, a modest pension being the carrot at the end of his rainbow.  His hours on that job were 4 pm to mid-night.  He rode the subway to work.  He never owned a car.  Once in a long while he got driven home. 

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41-french-laundry.jpg frenchlaundryinside.jpgI went to the French Laundry restaurant located in the Napa region (specifically, Yountville, California) in 1996 and haven’t been able to get a reservation since – at least until a week ago.  Of course, that’s what happens when a chef later becomes tops in the U.S. and his restaurant is voted tops in the world.  But with one day’s notice, I was told my group of four were in. Pack your dinner jacket we were told.  They should’ve added cash out your 401k and clean out your savings account with a scrub brush.  The price to party was now $240 per person for a nine course tasting menu (two options: Chef’s and Vegetarian) not including wine – a decent bottle (not a case) of which will cost you $200 more.  

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pbj.jpgI have to admit – as much as I love trying new recipes – there are times when nothing quite compares to the satisfying goodness of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Some days there's just no time for chopping, grilling, or baking and a classic PB & J is the perfect solution.

According to Smuckers, no one really knows when or where this sandwich was first created. Bread and jelly have been around for ages, but peanut butter wasn't invented until 1890. This spreadable creation was a hit at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, and during the 1920s and 1930s, commercial brands of peanut butter such as Peter Pan and Skippy were introduced. Around the same time, pre-sliced bread became common in the U.S. But there's no mention of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before the 1940s.

The National Peanut Board reports that the average kid eats 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating from high school. They're not just for kids – I've often been on airline flights, when a waft of peanut butter drifts my way, and I turn to see some business exec pull out a Ziploc bag from a briefcase and enjoy a pb & j out – much to the envy of fellow passengers. You can also take comfort in knowing you're helping to save the planet!

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sandwich.jpgamy_ephron_color.jpg My family likes sandwiches.  My present husband had his bachelor party at Langer’s.  The day before our wedding, while I was at a ladies’ lunch thrown by my sisters, my husband, his son, my son, his daughter’s boyfriend, my brother-in-law, and one of my nephews went to Langer’s Deli (across the street from MacArthur Park) and ordered pastrami sandwiches, lots of them, I understand, more than one apiece.  And it was further evidence to me that I was marrying the right person.

In our family, we think of sandwiches as comfort food.   The slightest thing, a bad grade, a lost soccer game, a minor heartbreak can prompt any one of us to say, “How do you feel about a sandwich?” – which is code for:  Let’s all jump in the car and go to the fish market in Malibu, Bay Cities in Santa Monica, Bryan’s Pit Barbecue in the Farmers’ Market...” or any number of other places where they have a great sandwich.  

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