A Sandwich Renaissance
DC on Rye
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 23:01
For one-sixth of my life, I wore big metallic braces. From freshman year until long after I graduated from high school, the metal in my mouth fiercely dictated what I could eat.
On Aug. 3, 2012, mere weeks before I came to Georgetown, my orthodontist pried that hideous metal out of my mouth. In many ways, he relinquished a great anxiety of mine: that the food I ate would lodge itself into the ridges and pockets of the train tracks which invasively ran through my mouth.
That day, I opened a new chapter in my life. Lunch would no longer be symbolized by Christmas-tree brushes and floss threaders — lunch would be characterized only by the sandwiches of my dreams.
Since the end of that three-year sandwich hiatus, and especially since I moved to Georgetown, each sandwich I eat is more than food — it is art — and Washington, D.C., has an enormous wealth of sandwiches if you know where to look.
For example, S street’s Stachowski’s Market’s Four Meat Grinder is not so much a sandwich as an experience. Everything about it is difficult, and as a seasoned sandwich-taster, even I have only dared to try it once.
The Four Meat Grinder sits atop the list of sandwiches that are available to order at Stachowski’s. There isn’t a single option on the menu that I would turn down, but something about this particular sandwich lured me in. The fact that I could watch the sandwich-maker slice sopressata and mortadella in front of my eyes made me want to say something eloquent as I ordered, but “Four Meat Grinder, please” seemed like the only words I could muster.
Ten minutes later, when I eventually received the thing, I didn’t know what to do with it. I remember my first reaction was to admire its sheer weight — something which caught me off guard and almost sent the sandwich crashing to the ground. My next task was to figure out how I would carry it back to campus, which turned out to be more complicated than might be expected. Because it was still slightly warm, I wanted to preserve as much heat as possible, but the sandwich was over a foot long and was difficult to find a place for in my backpack, which was already packed with books and binders. It seemed that every way I tried to get it to fit, I couldn’t close the zipper around the last two inches — and the only thing more awkward than walking around Georgetown with a 12-plus-inch sandwich in hand is walking around Georgetown with a 12-plus-inch sandwich sticking out of my backpack.
I started the small odyssey back to campus and counted the blocks up from 28th to 37th streets and then the footsteps it took to get from the gates to my dorm. I finally got to Harbin, but was too afraid to take the elevator in case somebody got in with me and smelled the ripe ingredients of my sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, carrying it made me proud, but what if my future wife got into the elevator, and I smelled like four types of salami? So I took the stairs, which only lengthened my journey.
After all that trouble, the most strenuous part of my journey was still eating the sandwich. I aggressively dove into it and immediately fell in love with the saltiness of the salamis, the acidity of the dressing and the sweet and spicy kick of the peppers. Everything about this sandwich was classic, and the first four inches were bliss between two slices of bread.
The next ten inches were a challenge to which I had been eagerly looking forward. Each bite seemed to have the caloric content of a small meal, but each bite invited me to get closer to the finish. When I swallowed that last piece of salami, I slumped back into my chair with a full stomach and strong personal sense of achievement. As hard as it was for me to believe, I valued my accomplishment of eating the sandwich more than its taste, and in that moment, I realized I was put on this earth to eat sandwiches.
DAVID CHARDACK is a freshman in the college. DC ON RYE appears every other week in the guide.