Remembering sandwiches of my youth

Consider the tomato sandwich. It’s an excellent example of the maxim that the simplest ingredients yield the highest reward: Bread. Mayonnaise. Tomato. Salt. Pepper. You can debate each element, which bread, which mayonnaise, which tomato. But add anything more and you’ve gone too far.

It was while thumbing through the Food section of the newspaper recently that I saw a photo of a collard sandwich. Nobody loves collards more than this Southern boy, but I’ve never, ever heard of any such concoction.

It also set me to thinking about sandwiches in general, while remembering certain homemade morsels I’ve consumed through the years that might be considered unconventional as well.

First of all, let’s agree to a certain understanding of mayonnaise. When I refer to it, I’m really talking about Miracle Whip salad dressing. That was considered mayo in my house. There might be a jar of real mayonnaise in the fridge, but it’s barely touched. I’ve tasted it but don’t prefer it. Just wanted to make all that clear before we travel down this white, wheat or whole grain path together.

As a child, it was not at all unusual for us to eat a mayonnaise sandwich. That’s right, two pieces of bread with nothing but mayo on it. We could afford baloney, but that was a totally different food group.

If you, too, ever ate such a sandwich, then we’re going to be able to relate in this column. If not, then there’s the real possibility of a dietary disconnect.

The most common go-to sandwich for any youngster has to be peanut butter and jelly.

There were a couple of others that I fondly remember. For some reason, the fried bologna sandwich seemed to be considered a treat. I’m not sure why. After all, I had experienced potted meat and even Spam sandwiches and lived to tell it.

Fried baloney, though, seemed to be not quite as highly regarded as ham, but definitely higher up the food chain than say, Vienna sausages.

As any self-respecting fried baloney chef knows, it’s necessary to cut a slit in the meat that allows it to lie flat in the skillet.

The other sandwich of my youth that I once really enjoyed involved bananas, mayo, a little sugar and fresh white bread. With mayonnaise spread on both pieces of bread, circular slices of banana are placed on top, then sprinkled with a little sugar.

I don’t think this is the healthiest of lunches ever devised, but I ate my share of them. One word of caution: They’re not particularly appetizing if left in a lunch box a couple of hours before eating. There’s something about brown bananas that tends to make us a little anxious.

I’m sure you, too, have a go-to sandwich around your house. This time of year, I know people who love fresh tomatoes sliced between two pieces of bread with a little mayo. It’s even better, I’m told, if the tomato juice runs down your forearm.

Maybe at your house it’s a grilled ham and cheese or something a little more exotic. On a Fourth of July weekend, hamburgers and hot dogs will populate picnic plates.

A few years ago while in Scotland, I stumbled into a little shop that featured baguette sandwiches. I ate one of those sandwiches for four or five straight days. I finally realized that what I liked most was the bread. It didn’t matter what was in it.

Maybe I should have just had a mayo baguette and been done with it?

Reach Warren Peper at peperwarren@gmail.com