Tomato season is just starting. Chuck Reece, the editor of The Bitter Southerner, shares his thoughts on the prescription for the perfect tomato sandwich.
Instructions for making a tomato sandwich the right way should always begin with this couplet from the late, great songwriter Guy Clark:
Up in the mornin’, out in the garden
Get you a ripe ’un, don’t get a hard ’un
Perfect tomato sandwiches require ripe, juicy tomatoes, preferably fresh off the vine. If you don’t have a tomato like that, then don’t make a tomato sandwich. Few things are worse than a tomato sandwich with a plain-Jane supermarket tomato.
If you have a fine, fresh tomato (and you should, because it’s summertime), you need only four other ingredients:
No. 1: White bread. By that, I do not mean dense, homemade white bread. I mean store-bought white sandwich bread. Sunbeam is my go-to loaf.
No. 2: Salt. I like kosher salt, because it gives you just a smidge of crunchiness.
No. 3: Black pepper. Freshly ground is best.
And finally, No. 4, you need mayonnaise.
The question of which mayo to use that will always start an argument among tomato-sandwich lovers. And the battle is always between the Two Great Southern Mayonnaises: Duke’s vs. Blue Plate.
Duke’s origins were in Greenville, South Carolina. Blue Plate was born in Gretna, Louisiana.
Hellmann’s, which originated in New York City, should not even be under consideration.
To assemble the sandwich, slice the tomato thickly, spread lots of mayo on the white bread, cover one side with tomato slices, then salt and pepper it to taste.
And when you eat the ideal tomato sandwich — with a juicy, ripe tomato and the requisite amount of mayonnaise — never wear long sleeves. It will send a stream of tomato juice and mayo down your arms. You should also stand over the sink, so it can run down your arms and drip from your elbows, safely, into the drain.
When you’re finished eating, you can grab the soap, wash your arms and hands, and then go on about your day, happy in the knowledge that you have made and eaten a tomato sandwich just as your grandmama intended.