Where Y’Eat: Behold the Special Power of the Summertime Tomato Sandwich

Jun 22, 2018

The tomato sandwich is simple, it's cheap and, because it's at its best in the summer, it has special powers, at least here in New Orleans.

Think about it: in the midst of our soaking heat, the season brings us these cheerfully red, bodaciously juicy tomatoes. Make one into a tomato sandwich, and you’ve made a meal. Bite in, and you may at least briefly give thanks for the summer, instead of just wishing it away.

The tomato sandwich remains humble fare. Even when entire business concepts are built around selling you a grilled cheese, a tomato sandwich still is not really restaurant food. It is slapdash, make-at-home, get-‘em-fed food.

This is a sandwich that has steps but does not need a recipe. It’s white bread, mayo, salt and pepper, tomato. Don’t over think it. Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve tried to make it fancy. But the whole point is the bursting fresh tomato itself, while it’s in its summertime prime and when we most desperately need a light, simple meal.

I’ve played around with the bread too. I thought it would be clever to unveil a New Orleans Creole tomato po-boy or up the ante with a good crusty country loaf.

Everything I tried, though, changed it too much. My analysis reveals that plain white sandwich bread is best for a tomato sandwich because it’s barely there.

Once the juice seeps in and your fingers press down, the bread turns into an envelope around the tomato.

This sandwich uplifts and transforms the ordinary processed bread, almost magically, just as the tomato itself can wring some seasonal gratitude out of our most grueling season, summer.

Now it’s time to bite in. You know the routine: elbow out, chest back, maybe standing over the kitchen sink to avoid the spilling juice.

And when some lands on you anyway, so what? If a little tomato on your shirt is the worst thing about a summer day in New Orleans, it’s time to count your blessings.