Today I ate the worst sandwich ever made. I am sure of it.
Sure, Turkish prison food is probably worse, if Midnight Express is any indication. I bet there’s some street food in Mumbai or Caracas that’ll make you doubt the existence of God. In a purely qualitatively way, this sandwich was not worse than these things, or any other filthy comparison you could conjure up.
This was the worst sandwich ever made in the way that Plan 9 from Outer Space and Manos: The Hands of Fate are the worst movies ever made. There are worse movies, but their failure is not compelling. Plan 9 and Manos fail in such grotesquely unique ways that you can’t help but watch the whole cinematic train wreck.
Ever head home really late after drinking too much, but by the time you get home you’re starting to sober up? So you decide wolf down some food before you go to bed so you won’t have too bad of a hangover the next morning? And while you’re waiting for a Hot Pocket to heat up in the microwave, you turn on HBO and they’re showing The Wicker Man? And you sit down and watch it, and you find out it’s even more insane in non-You Tube form?
So you stay up way, way too late, knowing you’re going to totally feel like shit at work the next day, because you just have to see how Nicolas Cage is gonna up the retard quotient in scene after scene?
If so, you will understand me when I say that this sandwich was so monstrously awful that I had to keep eating it.
I recently took a job in Dumbo. It’s not the greatest neighborhood for cheap food, so I’m constantly on the lookout for Lunch Deals. Today, I ventured into a deli that looked promising. They had a spiffy looking awning, and their name had the word “Fresh” in it. So I imagined it would be a better option than tacos or pizza, which I’ve had far too much of since starting this gig.
However, I quickly discovered that this joint spent its marketing budget on signage, because the interior looked no better than the deli in my building where I usually get lunch. In fact, it looked much worse. It had a dingy, dim-lit country general store feel to it. Like, if I turned down the wrong aisle I’d be confronted by some angry rednecks sitting over a cracker barrel making horrible jokes about Hillary Clinton.
But they did have a table full of pre-made sandwiches in plastic clamshell boxes. I didn’t have time to order a sandwich at the lunch counter, so I decided to go with one of these. And I even deliberated, rummaging through turkey and Cuban and ham options before landing on something that purported to be chicken teriyaki on focaccia bread. I swear it looked reasonably appetizing in the box.
I began to suspect the supreme wrongness of this sandwich once I got back to my desk and unleashed it from its plastic cage. The bread, which looked palatable back in the deli, was schizophrenically bad, doughy in some spots, soggy and falling apart in others. It was glazed by some tomato sauce-like substance, but obviously many hours before. By the time I got it, the bread resembled the last pizza crust left over at the end of a huge party.
I don’t know what kind of meat was on this sandwich, but any resemblance between it and chicken was purely academic. It was gray-ish brown, glistening like an alien embryo. In the grand NY deli tradition, it had obviously been swimming in a vat of teriyaki. Not marinated, but parachuted into an ocean of sauce and hoisted back out with a fish net before it was placed on the bread.
There was one element of the sandwich that was not horrible: the lettuce was fresh and crunchy. But the competence of lettuce choice actually made the rest of the sandwich worse. As I bit into it, the crispness of the lettuce emphasized the sogginess and generally flaccid nature of the bread and meat. The lettuce should not be the best thing on a sandwich, I thought.
And as I thought this, my teeth rebelled. They had just sunk into something eerily solid and recoiled in terror. I lifted the bread, and I saw that there was a pineapple wedge shoved between the lettuce and the slimy wad of meat. Not a slice, like you’d see on a baked ham. Not a chunk, like you’d get in a fruit salad. I’m talking an enormous wedge. You could have stopped a door with this slab of pineapple. Hell, you could have stopped a forklift with this thing.
I picked off the pineapple wedge on the sandwich half I was eating. With my curiosity piqued, I lifted the soggy bread on the uneaten half to see what awaited me there. There was not a single pineapple wedge on this half. There were three, each of them just as big as the mound on the first half. All told, I think the amount of pineapple on this sandwich equaled one-third of the state of Hawaii’s annual agrarian output.
I don’t know if this is some element of teriyaki sandwiches that I was previous unaware of, or if this was the chef’s avant garde moment. Like, he’s a frustrated artist and his bosses just let him go nuts once a month to keep him sane. “Yeah, we give him a chance to let the creative juices flow every now and then. Sometimes he gets really weird, like that time he made the minestrone with urinal cakes floating in it.”
But when I saw the size of this mountain of pineapple, I actually laughed out loud. I can’t recall the last time that a lunch item made me laugh out loud. ‘Cause it had to be a joke, right? I mean, what kind of monster would say to himself, “Yes, that’s what this already wretched sandwich is missing–a lump of pineapple that could feed the nation of Thailand!”
I felt like I had to honor the sheer madness behind this sandwich (and not totally waste the $6.50 I spent on it), so I kept eating. But I got halfway through the second half, and I started to feel vaguely ill. I realized there nothing good could possibly come from finishing this thing, other than my first opportunity to ride in an ambulance.
So I shut the plastic cage over the uneaten portion and the 17 metric tons of pineapple, and buried the sandwich quietly in the kitchen. In my head, I played “Taps”, mourning the loss of one man’s singular lunch hour vision.
Here’s to you, brave sir or madam. Truly you are the Ed Wood of sandwiches.