|The runner-up: D'elia's in Riverside, California (c. 1967)|
The following aren't secrets to locals, but if you happen to be traveling to said area... anyway, these are some of the food-place secrets Da-da has shared with his boys.
What's a grinder and why is it called a grinder and who cares?
A grinder is a long, yummy sandwich that Togos and Subway and Quiznos have tried for years to copy (failing miserably). It's often hot, has shredded lettuce and some kinda meat, and is wrapped in foil (Da-da has no idea why this is important; perhaps the aluminum molecules ablate due to the heat of the sandwich and coat everything in a metallic miasma of... ok, maybe not), but like any fabulous food, it's the intangibles that make it.
Everything in a grinder is very specific and for whatever reason, impossible to recreate: the way you shred lettuce, the kind of lettuce, the amount of onion, how you shred the onion, the style and make of cheese, the secret italian dressing, the size of the lizard, the quality of the air where you're enjoying your lizard grinder... blah blah blah. These are all obvious. But intangibly speaking, it's the sourcing of these intangible ingredients and their freshness that makes the sandwich, that makes an awesome sandwich experience... and dude, it's all about the awesome sandwich experience.
|Um, yes, that's an old sign.|
Here's what D'elia's looks like today:
See one of the intangibles? It's spelled out on the sign: "IT'S THE BREAD!" Guess that's pretty tangible. Indeed, it IS the bread. And everything else. Note that D'elias offers the runner-up best sandwich in the world.
So, where is THE BEST SANDWICH IN THE WORLD to be had?
Again, it's time for intangibles. If you've just crossed the Sahara, chances are that that first glass of water/wine you drink is going to be the best water/wine you've ever tasted. If you've stumbled into a packed, hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese sandwich place in San Francisco and you're starving, chances are you're soon to be very happy and remember it forever. (Da-da won't even get started on papusas, the name itself is sexy enough.) Anyway, THE best sandwich Da-da has ever had was from...
Yes, a silly little sandwich stand in the Gare du Nord train station in Paris. It was just (just!) a warm baguette right out of the oven, with a few slices of emmenthal or gouda or... some kinda white cheese... and smoked ham, slightly warm, all as fresh/good as is Frenchly possible, and that for only about $3. Da-da and soon-to-be-wife (now Ma-ma) then sat on the train after rushing around all morning, finally digging into the thing with no expectations... a few bites... a long moment passed. We looked at each other.
"Is this the best sandwich you've ever had?" Da-da asked.
Future Ma-ma nodded (and NO, Da-da doesn't call her, "Ma-ma" at home, only in the shower). To further validate, some of Da-da's future in-law relatives were also along, so we divided little samples here and there... all agreed. Best. Sandwich. Ever. Like Jacques Pepin says, a recipe is merely trying to replicate a moment, and that one was, alas, unique. Da-da's tried to replicate it and he cannot. So, besides freshness, what intangible was present? SIMPLICITY. It was only three things: bread, cheese, ham. All fresh. All warm. All calling Da-da's name from so far away.
"So, where are you going today?" a future neighbor will ask future Parisian Da-da.
"The train station."
"Oh? Going for a day-trip?"
"No. For lunch."
|Da-da may cry if he looks at this much longer.|
While Da-da has you... here's something he taught his boys early on. By the time it takes you to go to a fast food place and order, you can easily source and walk into a gourmet bakery or market, buy a baguette, a nice piece of cheese and a piece of ham, maybe an heirloom tomato... BOOM. What you have will totally blow away any BS/corporate fast-food experience. And it's better for you. And better for the environment. And it's fun. Alas, it's not cheaper. BUT... if you're with someone and split it? It's cheaper. And lunching with someone while saving money and having better food is infinitely nicer than eating BS... er, BK by yourself in some stupid plastic-smelling car in a parking lot, staring at your phone. Vive, muchachos, vive.