There are three desires no man need ever justify -- Marisa Tomei, a Damn Good Sandwich, and his mother's happiness. But since the first one is every man for himself and the last one is an individual concern, we can only advise you on the middle.
Making a Damn Good Sandwich should be first nature for every man since high school, when newly grown patches of hair demand increased levels of protein. Here are the basics you're going to need.
Bread -- obviously. This is where technical questions come into play, like whether a taco is a sandwich (probably, but as with most cousin species, their hybrids face a harsh existence). A hamburger is obviously a sandwich, but that's like calling Bruce Lee a kickboxer.
There are too many kinds of bread to go into, but each one has a huge bearing on the sandwich -- is it chewy, crispy, thick, thin, flavorful, dry? The answer is no. No bread can be all of these things. Pick three and come back here when you've found the bread that best fits your main ingredient. Speaking of that...
Meat -- These cleave (heh) into whole cuts like beef strips and chicken cutlets, or sliced composites such as cold cuts and gyro meat. Below cold cuts lie shavings: your frizzled cheesesteaks and reconstituted sausage/scrapple combinations. Below those, lie nanobots, whose sole purpose in existence is to kick molecules around until the food spontaneously becomes meat. Beyond nanobots waits Carnoxx, the Meat from Dimension X! It only exists in one of the string theory axes too small for current flavor technology to detect. But when the Large Hardron Collider finally proves its existence, it will use the opportunity to come forth into this world and subjugate us all to deliciousness!
Not-meat -- Look, there are plenty of great sandwiches to be had without meat. A nice eggplant parm, for example, or...or...okay, that's it. The fact is, if your sandwich were a car, the protein would be its engine, and nobody wants to eat a pile of beans between two slices of bread. It's just awkward for all parties. Smash them into a more cohesive paste, and you have a spread, not a driving force which compelled you to make a sandwich. Your options are pretty much these:
- Mushrooms - These are flavorful and chewy like meat, minus any nutritional value. No, I'm kidding! They're an important source of vital nutrition like selenium, potassium and riaciabibimin, which vegetarians don't get from plants. Fungi are sort of what you'd get if animals were plants. But if plants were animals...hoo boy! Then you get The Thing from Outer Space.
- Tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc. -- Looks like cheese, chews like meat, tastes like neither. These absorb flavor until they taste like meat, which is a responsible, if miserable, way to live.
- The bigger fruits & vegetables -- Anything you can cut large enough to take whole bites out of: eggplant, cucumber, tomato, squash, TV's Ryan Seacrest.
Cheese -- I'm not saying your Damn Good Sandwich absolutely must have cheese, I'm just saying I thought you were making a Damn Good Sandwich here. This, along with bread, is the most important pairing your meat will have. Turkey, for example, favors Swiss over American, because those birds are traitors to their home country.
Leafy greens -- 85% of the sandwiches you make in your life are going to want a piece of lettuce or cabbage. Occasionally the pulled pork sammich is going to come your way, but even that favors a nice coleslaw. You may even put sprouts or spinach on there because you can't be held back by society's rules, man.
Fruits -- Most of the time this means tomato, but because you're an alright guy, I'm going to let you in on a secret: Nothing beats a tomato. What, did you think there was a better option? Get outta here. Okay, I see you're persistent, so avocado's making big gains these days. Mango, though powerful, is an increasingly popular addition to sandwiches with white meat. Red meat favors something more acidic, like your ex-girlfriend.
Condiments & spreads -- this is the navigator that's going to steer your entire Damn Good Sandwich safely to Tastonia. It can be just about anything from basics like ketchup, mayo, relish (or all three -- Russian dressing!) to fancy-pants seasoned olive oil-vinegar combos, flavored hummus, curried fruit chutneys...condiments are where making a sandwich becomes as varied and delightful an experience as dating a different Maxim girl every day of the week. Which I totally do. It's part of my writer's contract.
The important thing to remember in combining all of these is that you're throwing them all together in a confined space and asking them to hammer out a harmony. You have to let each one bring something of value to the table. Remember that as you construct your Damn Good Sandwich, and you'll do your ma proud. Legend even has it that a legend will one day rise to craft the ultimate Damn Good Sandwich, and with it, woo Marisa Tomei's sexy, sexy heart.
Have a Damn Good Sandwich blueprint? Share your know-how: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brendan McGinley is the author of The Man's Book Of The BBQ, and really does make a Damn Good Sandwich.