We’ve been experiencing a relatively cool Spring here in the southeastern U. S., so I really haven’t yet transitioned completely into my traditional summertime state of mind. However, it appears as if this situation may be about to change as the weatherman is predicting daily high temperatures in the mid-90s by the middle of the coming week.
Those lazy, hazy, crazy, hot, and sticky days of summer can’t be far off now!
That also means that it won’t be very long before I’m once again enjoying that ubiquitous southern culinary classic, the Tomato Sandwich. NOTE: To avoid confusing my readers, I chose to use the common spelling which Miss Bradshaw, my 4th grade teacher, would have approved. But as any connoisseur of this delicacy will tell you, it’s more commonly known as the “Mater Sam’ich.”
Did you know that prior to the 1500’s, the tomato was unknown in Europe? Makes me wonder what the Italians were eating up until then. Spanish Conquistadors discovered the tomato when they conquered the Aztecs. They apparently understood how it could be used to enhance and improve pizza, so they brought some plants back with them when they returned to the Old World.
For some reason however, English settlers in North America believed that tomatoes were poisonous and continued to do so well into the 1700’s. This historical tidbit, combined with the fact that the tomato is actually a fruit – not a vegetable as most folks believe, makes the tomato among the most misunderstood of items found in the produce section at your local grocery store.
I don’t know if the Aztecs enjoyed mater sam’ichs or not, but I sure do. And over the years, through much pseudo-scientific trial and error, I’ve developed the recipe for making the absolutely perfect sam’ich.
I grew up making them using white bread, but my health conscious wife has convinced (or was it coerced) me to switch to wheat bread. You know – that brown stuff, what I used to call sawdust bread. I’m pleased to report that the use of sawdust bread seems to have no detrimental effects on the quality of the final product.
The first step in achieving mater sam’ich heaven is the spreading of a liberal portion of Duke’s mayonnaise on both pieces of bread. As far as I’m concerned there is only one true mayonnaise. That would be Duke’s. All other brands pale in comparison. Created by Greenville, South Carolina’s Miss Eugenia Duke in 1917, Duke’s contains no sugar which enhances it’s flavor to a level far beyond that which is found among its competitors.
Step two is to generously salt the mayonaise on both pieces of bread, then repeat the process with black pepper. Next, I place at least two slices of tomato on the bread. Depending on the diameter of the tomato slices, I sometimes cut a third slice in half, placing one half on the sam’ich. My objective is simply to cover the bread/mayonnaise surface as completely as possible with tomato.
Now comes the step which both my wife and the American Heart Association can not countenance. I generously salt the tomatoes, but only the exposed top surface. Why? Because I’ve found that just a bit more salt is needed to provide the perfect balance of flavors.
Finally, the pièce de résistance, slap the remaining slice of bread on top and “Voilà! ” – you have the perfect mater sam’ich! These go great with some chips and a tall glass of sweet iced tea.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m going to run downstairs and make me one, or maybe two, right now!
Enjoy and have a great summer!