Monday, September 6, 2010

My Sandwich, My Recipe, My Shame

Since I mentioned here several weeks ago that I’ve been eating a lot of meatless Reuben sandwiches for lunch, readers have been bombarding me with requests for the recipe. I have been slow in honoring their requests not because my heart isn’t swollen with love and gratitude to my readers — the best people on earth! — but because I write out recipes very much more painstakingly than most people, and the process can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. Just as many people believe that the positions in the heavens of distant stars influence the behavior of persons with particular birthdays (astrology, you see), I believe that every step in the preparation of a dish, starting with shopping for its ingredients, influences the way it will ultimately taste.

Drive to the nearest Aldi, the German-owned discount supermarket chain. Whenever possible, drive to the one on Route 17 in Newburgh, New York. En route, ignore the Check Engine declaration on your instrument panel; if you ignore it sufficiently tenaciously, it will eventually fade away. Look forward to a time, several weeks hence, when it won’t be suffocatingly hot and humid anymore, and the foliage will have begun to turn astonishing colors that you can admire from the Hamilton Fish Bridge. Take your mind off it’s having been a relentlessly beastly summer by thinking about how much you’ve come to admire Andre Agassi, who came across on his recent interview with NPR’s Teri (she can spell it her way, and I will spell it mine) Gross as bright, humble, articulate, thoughtful, soft-spoken, and even altruistic.

Once at Aldi, tower over the rest of the clientele, who are predominantly latino and petite. Hope they have sauerkraut, your impulsive purchase of which got you making your sandwich in the first place. Feel an elitist as you note that Sea Queen, a lot of whose fish products Aldi offers, puts approximately 4,000 more ingredients, many of them sinister-sounding, in its breaded cod fillets than Trader Joe’s puts in their own. Curse Michael Pollan for having advised against eating any packaged food containing more than five ingredients. Get some sliced mozzarella cheese, some butter (because you’ve come to believe that margarine is actually worse for you), and a loaf of multigrain bread. Stand in a very long checkout line, and marvel, as you always do, at the crap that your fellow New Yorkers are willing to ingest.

On the way home, brood about the Obama presidency. Recall how you literally danced in the street the night he was elected. Recall too how you wished Ralph Nader would give it a rest when, a day or two thereafter, he predicted that Obama would turn out to be a spineless corporate puppet. Wince now at the realization that Ralph was pretty much right. Find yourself incredulous at how Obama has extended some of the Bush administration’s most egregious civil liberties abuses, how he refuses to unleash his wit and intelligence on the lower life forms we know as Republicans, and how he goes all mealy-mouthed and politiciany at the mention of gay marriage, the so-called Ground Zero mosque, and Arizona’s xenophobia. Gnash your teeth thinking how in 2012 your only real choice is going to be between him and someone like Mitt fucking Romney or, God forbid, Palin. Nader, or someone like him — someone with ideals — will surely be on the ballot, of course, but voting for her or him will essentially be voting for the Republican. Were you pleased with the result when you voted Peace & Freedom in 1968, and Richard fucking Nixon began his reign of terror? How about 2000, when your vote for Nader was a vote Al Gore didn't get? In American presidential elections, you don't vote for someone, but against someone.

Notice, as you pull into your driveway, that after last week's basement-flooding rain, the weeds need whacking. Recall with a shudder, though, that every time you use your weed-whacker, you forget to wear long trousers, and manage to stripe your ankle with lacerations. Wonder if the fastidious Jim, two houses north, thinks you’re ruining the neighborhood.

Once inside the garage, ignore the growing mountain of cardboard you never quite get around to taking to the recycling center. Lightly butter two slices of the multigrain bread. Put one and a half slices of cheese atop one of them, so that the bread is covered. Now put some sauerkraut on the cheese, and shove it around so that the cheese is nearly covered. Put a little oil in a pan, put the second slice of bread on the sauerkraut, and now put the assembled sandwich in the hot oil. Turn it over when you feel the moment is right.

Serves one. Serves him right.

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