Tag Archives: sandwiches

Deconstructed Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

This recipe was taken from an episode of Top Chef: Personal Lives

To make the perfect deconstructed PB&J:

Make sure you are alone. Check the bedrooms, kitchen, closets, basement, staircases, and behind, making sure you are unaccompanied. Lock the doors.

Stalk your way to the kitchen. Be furtive. The more furtive you are, the better the deconstructed sandwich will taste. A furtive sandwich is a tasty sandwich.

Glance around shamefully, then reach into the cabinet and withdraw the half empty jar of peanut butter from its lair. You are not a pessimist, but there’s no denying you’ve already eaten half of the peanut butter. It is a large jar, with 24 servings, a total of 48 tablespoons. You’ve done the math. There is no call for optimism here.

Make sure you are alone.

Quietly, ever so quietly, remove the lid. Quickly check behind you and then grab a knife from the drawer, a butter knife. Slowly close the squeaky drawer, trying to make as little noise as possible. Wince at every creak. A quiet sandwich is a good sandwich.

today, we dine on pb&j alone

With the jar and knife, creep to your bedroom, shutting the door behind you. Set the peanut butter timer for ten minutes. Crawl into bed and, with the knife, eat the peanut butter, varying your technique slightly from bite to bite. It’s just you, the knife, the peanut butter, and the timer.

When the timer goes off, jump as if something has scared you. Realize it was just the fact you sat by yourself in your room alone eating peanut butter for ten minutes. Push this thought away and then continue making the deconstructed PB&J.

Pick up the jar and knife, cleaned of all traces of peanut butter, and make your way back to the kitchen. The lights in the house should be off, curtains closed except for a crack through which you can see the outside world. Sandwiches in the dark are toothsome sandwiches.

In the kitchen, place the peanut butter back in its dark corner.

Choose your favorite spoon, the one you eat frosting and ice cream with, the one you would take with you should you ever travel again, the spoon you would want your friends to see,  the spoon you would want to look like if you still went out to social events.

Open the mostly empty fridge and remove your only jar of jam, which is almost gone. Open it up and slurp down a few mouthfuls with your spoon. Reassure yourself that you deserve this. Notice how the sweet, cool, smooth texture of the jam contrasts beautifully with the creamy, slightly savory, nutty aftertaste of the peanut butter. Afterwards, notice how you are eating jam out of the jar.

A quiet sandwich is a good sandwich.

Screw the lid on the jam and put it back. After closing the door, glance at the pictures on the fridge. Wonder if you should call your mother.

Eat a slice of bread later on, after waking from your nap.

P.S. Teddie Peanut Butter is the best.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Open letter to the pile of mush I ate today

The innards looked kind of like this but redder. It did taste good.

Dear substance I consumed,

The path leading to you, a “shekshooka” sandwich, was filled with guilt, yellow-bellied behavior, and poor decision making in general. Though the time we had together was short, I would like to thank you for showing me the depths to which my dignity can plummet through the mere act of food consumption, depths I never knew existed. I am now more acutely aware of the pathetic human condition.

My thinking capacity weakened by the mid-day heat, I wander in a daze most closely related to that of tranquilized animals before they are slaughtered. Friend suggests getting something to eat, and I agree with the docility of a lamb, embarking on a journey soon to end with me shoveling goop into my mouth out of a plastic bag.

At the inevitable sandwich place, I crave something on the “lighter side” of Egyptian street fare. I have forgotten this is a side that does not exist. Regardless of other contents, the main ingredient by weight of every dish is oil and/or mayonnaise. In my woefully doomed attempt to avoid eating mostly oil, soybean or otherwise, I order you, a shekshooka sandwich, which I imagine to be a spiced omelet shoved into bread. “What could be healthier or lighter than an omelet?” I asked myself as blissfully uninformed as someone wondering why her mother is making such strange snuffling and grubbing sounds outside the tent. I soon find out the actual shekshooka is remarkably unlike an omelet.

Things go sour from the start, as my order is promptly lost and I have to wait a solid ten minutes (as opposed to the usual one minute) to begin what would ultimately be one of the most dehumanizing activities I’ve ever engaged in. Wasted by heat and restaurant crowd exhaustion, I am no longer hungry and desire only to consume you and finish with this business once and for all. Finally, I see you being prepared: a cup of oil and a few eggs thrown into a pan, a fork mashing it all together with disdain.  Mr. Man scrapes your pulpy substance out onto a plate before slopping you into a round of Egyptian bread that is then thrown into a small plastic bag. Here you take your final form and instantly begin to deteriorate, the thin exoskeleton of bread doing nothing to prevent the hot egg mixture from infiltrating its every pore and beginning to escape. As I cup the plastic sandwich casing, I feel your liquid innards struggling to break free. My heart fills with dread. There will be consequences but no looking back.

With both hands I lift you, dear sandwich, to my jaws and begin to devour you, the sensation closely related to what a bear must feel when it digs into the intestines of a freshly slain deer. The preliminary bites are mostly bread, but I then reach the heart of the mess, my hands supporting you in your plastic cocoon that prevents your complete disintegration. Were I to pump you in my fist a few times, you would instantly become the consistency of baby food. Knowing this, I proceed with caution, as I hope to retain some form of dignity when I polish off your last morsels. I have hopes of removing you from the plastic bag while savoring the final bites…

Alas it is not to be. Though your flavor itself is delicious, I only continue the grotesque task of eating you through sheer determination. As I near your end, there is no longer any distinction between the outer bread and your greasy innards.  You have become a homogeneous mush filling up the right corner of my sandwich bag, its tip a pocket of red oil for contrast that reminds me of my pre-sandwich naivety.  The sight turns my stomach, to be frank.

Unwilling to concede defeat, and despite being disgusted at what I have become in the heat of competition, I proceed to consume you in your entirety. You, since you are a sandwich, cannot appreciate how shameful it is to eat mush out of a bag. Indeed, it is impossible eat in such a manner and retain the same level of self-respect, knowing full well I am one step away from eating out of feed bag strapped to my face. As I use my fingers to invert the corner of the bag and thrust your last remaining particles-a veritable oil slick- into my gaping mouth, I swear to myself I will never stoop this low again.

A new day dawns tomorrow, one in which I will eat with a fork, or a spoon, or even with my hands, but never again will I feed as a common pack animal or wild beast. The obvious exception is if I am, in fact, tucking into an animal I have just chased down and slaughtered. So thank you, shekshooka sandwich, for inspiring me onto new heights after showing me the very nadir of human existence.

Eternally yours,


Tagged , , , , , ,

Concealed sandwiches prohibited

Main cause of Revolution failure: laxness with sandwich-carriers

The Tahrir sit-in continues as do my experiences with tafteesh, which are especially lovely in the morning. After I wake

up, it usually takes me about an hour to feel like I’m not underwater and appreciate that the things happening around me are, in fact, real. Since I woke up a mere 10 minutes before leaving for school this morning, I had the distinct feeling of being in an aquarium while walking out into the haze of the humid Cairo day. The sensation was intensified by the fact that the metro was unusually moist, the air within the women’s car as warm and embracing as kisses from grandma, though much less pleasant (love you, grandma).

Before surfacing in Tahrir square, I and the other CASA students I had swum into on the way to the metro made our way through the ladies-only tafteesh, conducted by a female trainee no older than fifteen who doubtless has a crush on Robert Redford or whoever the kids like nowadays. There are anywhere from one to two steps in the tafteesh process: 1) exhibit ID 2) submit bag to be searched. The steps occur sometimes in this order, sometimes without the bag search, and sometimes with additional mandatory small talk. The bag search process can be a hassle especially when the girl doing the searching has no idea what a weapon looks like but knows what people searching for weapons looks like, carefully examining everything with equal care, pens, pencils, pocket sized notebooks, ribbon wands, etc. It is also a hassle when one has an American-style, million pocket adventure backpack, each pocket of which must be searched.

One of the girls I was with had such a backpack, which was large and full of things a student uses: books, pencils, and sandwich in a sandwich box. Out of everything that could have aroused suspicion, Ms. Tafteesh was most captivated by the encased sandwich, which looked as American as an apple pie playing baseball, complete with wheat, not white bread, in the sliced loaf style that we so adore. In the amount of time tafteesh girl took to examine the sandwich, I could have clubbed her with my water bottle, grabbed the sandwich, run up the stairs, and been apprehended instantly by other security personnel, who I would have attacked by smearing the contents of the sandwich on their faces. All this to say I think her focus could have been better spent elsewhere.

I have not been able to stop thinking about the girl and the sandwich all day. Though I realize the shape must have been slightly strange for her, I wonder what kind of weapon she thought it could be. Did it signal the presence of a spy? Could it contain some sort of bomb or knife? Did it remind her of a family member? Could it be planted somewhere and cause a strange sensation for someone when stepping on it barefoot? Could it be planted somewhere and explode?

Maybe I’ll never know what was going through Ms. Tafteesh’s mind as she pondered the sandwich. But I did think of something strange later on: I have never actually seen said student eat her sandwich. I have, on the other hand, seen her lurking around campus and hiding her sandwiches under desks and in trash cans. Maybe that girl at the tafteesh station was onto something.

Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: