Monday is July 4, the moment in my personal wheel of the year when I realize summer’s already a month gone and I’d better hurry myself to a public pool once or twice, lest Labor Day roll around and I feel like I wasted the season yet again. One of the surefire shortcuts I will take in my route to vibes: regularly eating tomato sandwiches.
God knows, I’m no Martha Stewart, but I tell you with absolute confidence that this summer, you should take full advantage of the existence of the tomato sandwich, perhaps the world’s most perfect hot-weather food.
Perhaps you’re only familiar with the tomato sandwich by reputation. Maybe you consider it an eccentricity for the enthusiast who loves tomatoes too much, or simply an unfinished BLT. Or you remember it mostly as the preferred snack of the heroine of Harriet the Spy. It’s time to bring this delight into your life and make it a reality.
I’m not here to make you look like Mario Batali, and if it would impress the jaded house guests at a party in the Hamptons, I generally do not fuck with it. Hence, I say that the platonic ideal of a tomato sandwich includes just five ingredients: white bread, tomatoes, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. That’s it. Don’t get cute.
Be choosy with your tomatoes; Jezebel has a number of heirloom tomato believers who insist they’re the only way to go. Personally, I prefer the width of a beefsteak tomato, but while shopping, you should pick up any candidates and give them a good sniff. If they don’t smell, they probably don’t taste, either. Select accordingly.
Of course, to properly live your best summer life, tomatoes should come from a roadside fruit produce stand, farmers’ market, or backyard garden (preferably your own or that of a friend/family member). But that’s not an option for everybody, and as long as your grocery store tomatoes pass the sniff test, your sandwich will be a perfect summer pleasure. (My local grocery store can barely manage to stock its shelves with edible broccoli and they’ve never let me down on the tomato sandwich front.)
Some people, such as Jezebel editor Emma Carmichael, might suggest additions including cheese. Don’t listen to them. They seek to lead you astray. This is not a Caprese sandwich. Cheese will simply distract from the simplicity that is the essence of this pleasure.
Toast the bread. (Anything but white bread will fight too hard with the other flavors.) Slice the tomatoes to your preferred thickness and layer them according to your sandwich texture preferences; eat. Preferably in the middle of the day, in front of a portable fan or on a porch, while wearing cutoffs or perhaps a jaunty caftan.
Tomatoes are juicy, with a little bit of bite; the mayonnaise feels indulgent, because it’s very bad for you, but at least you didn’t eat a hamburger; the toasted bread is a perfect canvas. The salt and pepper knits it all together. It’s the perfect ratio of moisture to crunch.
You could probably tote all the ingredients in a cooler to a picnic or on beach trip, assemble sandwiches on the spot, and find yourself immediately nominated for canonization as summer saint by your friends. If not, hell, more tomato sandwiches for you.
Perhaps the only downside of this ludicrously idyllic summer food is that one is too few, while two is too many. But the solution is very simple: one whole sandwich and a second half sandwich, made from half the tomato slices and a single piece of folded-over bread. And you’re done! Enjoy your summer.