Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Favorite food. the club sandwich.

In Seattle there is a club at the top of the tallest skyscraper in the city, a private club where members can go for lunch or drinks or dinner. It has incredible views of the entire city from every window, including the ladies' bathroom, where each stall has its own sink and window. (The men's room, alas, has no windows and no view, but if the ladies' room is unoccupied a waiter might sneak you in for a peek at the view). When I was young, my babysitter once took me there for lunch (her aunt and uncle are members). It was so exciting to get dressed up and ride up the endless elevator - so endless that you got off one elevator mid-way up to the top and went to another bank of elevators for the rest of the journey - and arrive at the front desk, from where you would be led to your table, hopefully one by the window. I've been there many times since, and somehow it is always a beautiful day, and I can see the whole city spread out before me, the Sound on one side, the lake on the other, and mountains in the distance. As the sun goes down the lights of the city go on and by dessert everything is a glittering carpet against black velvet.

What else is there to order at the club but a club sandwich? Three slices of white toast, spread with mayonnaise, layered with slices of turkey and bacon and lettuce and tomato, neatly quartered into triangles. Speared with frilled toothpicks (a necessity to hold it all together), served with french fries on the side. (Later, there would be berries and cream in a crisp almond tuile cup). Inevitably the sandwich falls apart as you eat it, meat sliding off one side, lettuce and tomato falling out the other. There must be some secret to eating a club sandwich gracefully and without making a mess, but I confess in all my years of eating club sandwiches at every opportunity I have never mastered it.

I cannot live without sandwiches, and it is impossible to say which kind is my favorite. The club sandwich has a bit of an edge over the others, because it has bacon, and bacon makes everything better. The bread is always toasted, and there are three slices instead of the usual two, and it adds heft to the contrasting salty crunch of bacon, smooth turkey breast, crisp lettuce, juicy tomato, and the toast which has been softened by a smear of mayonnaise, which melds all the different flavors and textures together. Sometimes there might be a fried egg, or avocado slices, which add an extra richness to the whole thing. I love the club sandwiches you find in caf├ęs or hotels in Hong Kong or Taipei or Shanghai; the white bread is different from the kind you find here, as it is sweeter and has a finer grain than American bread.

Around the corner from where I live is a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch. It is big and sunny and slightly shabby and full of business people, or scrub-wearing employees from the hospital across the street, or patients of said hospital and their families. There are dozens of sandwiches and burgers and even breakfast (which is served until closing) and I can't decide until I see they have a club sandwich and of course that's what I order. On whole-wheat toast, because somehow I deceive myself that the, er, wholesomeness of wheat bread will counteract the bacon. It comes sliced into squares, instead of triangles; the turkey is freshly roasted, the bacon is thickly sliced, the vegetables are fresh, and it is a most excellent lunch. Perfect.

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