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Monday, February 13, 2012

How the Club Sandwich changed my life.

I have been called "quirky". I prefer the term "logical", or "oozing with a certain beautiful kind of genius common sense" or "driven by the tides", depending on the circumstance.

However you tend to label my benign madness, it is worth noting that I judge the caliber of any restaurant by the quality its Club Sandwich. Perhaps I should explain...

I ordered my first Club Sandwich as a youth of 18 or 19 - the fact that I never had a Club until I was nearly 20 years-old is subject for an entirely different blog that might be entitled "10 Quality Reasons Jerry Should Invest In Many Years of Solid Therapy". But I digress. I was at the Goldwaters department store at the Fashion Square Mall, in which at that time was "North Scottsdale" - Camelback and Scottsdale Roads. I had been shopping or wandering and sat down at a quaint little outside deli - the weather was nice and there was not a single reason I could think of to sit inside. I read the ingredients of the Club Sandwich and figured I would give it a try - after all, how could one possibly go wrong with turkey and bacon, with some lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise - on toast?

The plate came out shortly thereafter - another prime reason for ordering a Club is that it does not take long to prepare. A restaurant's ability to work efficiently can be measured using the Club Sandwich Yardstick. It was served with a side of potato salad - a decent scoop, and a dill pickle wedge. The meal was perfect. The portion was not too heavy, the food tasty and sides worked with the sandwich to create a sort of perfect storm on my plate of taste and variety.

My life would never be the same.

I was horrified to find that not all Club Sandwiches were created equal. Granted, I am no prude and wholeheartedly support experimentation in life and on the plate. But seriously - do we need to fiddle-fart around with something as elegant and perfect as the Club Sandwich and its classic side accompaniment? A Club Sandwich does not need pesto, sun-dried tomato spread or horse-radish. Nor should one replace the bacon with ham. If you don't eat bacon, order the turkey sandwich two items down on the menu. Of course, it probably won't be three-layered, or served on toasted bread, but if you ate bacon, this would not be an issue. Avocados have no place on the Club, nor do roast beef or chicken. If you wish to muddle with the recipe, then put "Club" in italics, so you don't in turn mislead and break the heart of the traditionalist.

                                     This is not a Club Sandwich. No way. This is a monstrosity.

As far as sides go, french fries are an acceptable substitute for potato salad, as is cole-slaw - this after much deliberation and analysis. I won't get into the numbers, but it has something to do with a scale of decadence, calibration of mood and the same vigorous ciphering used to determine Babe Ruth's bat speed in 1923 versus 1929, using little more than grainy, silent game footage, a strobe light and a can of 3-in-1 Oil with its spout set on fire. Just keep in mind, sides can be tricky and it is not advised to go with fruit or cottage cheese. First off, if you are ordering a sandwich with fried bacon and mayonnaise, you are only fooling yourself by ordering the healthy side. The meal will only be truly healthy if you begin by dumping the sandwich in the garbage and licking up the side of cottage cheese. If you are looking for healthy options, go read a healthy blog. This is a quirky blog, driven by the tides.

I quickly learned to be wary of variation and using my right index finger and a speed-reading technique known as "Von Chicklet's", I was soon able to find and assess the Club Sandwich on a menu - anywhere in the country, though Tennessee dealt me fits - within seconds. If necessary, I would grill the surly waitress or ponce of a waiter for clarification, often sending them off in tears with a few well-placed questions regarding quality of ingredients and sandwich assembly, followed by a sound rebuke and an "AHA!", spoken loudly, with authority and my speed-reading index finger pointing high into the air for emphasis.

The bottom line is thus: The Club Sandwich (with the classic trio of side choices and pickle spear) is a simple, elegant treasure and any restaurant worth its salt will serve it in the traditionalist manner. There is no real need to "Southwestern" it, "Chipotle" it or "Heart-Healthy" it. It is what it is - and what it is is a fine barometer for a restaurant's meta-ethics and appreciation of composition, style and tradition. Feel free to take what I have refined over years and decades of diligent research and make your own decisions - but let the Club Sandwich be your guide. She is a sturdy vessel and will never let you down.

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