A Journey Through the Sandwiches—Chip Butty

It’s funny to consider that throughout all of this, I’ve never told you the reason behind it all. The inciting event, I guess you’d say. So, I’ll tell you now—I’m chasing down the man who broke my father’s heart.

That man’s name is Gator Colfin, international land shark and cowboy. He’s a cool, calm con man, and thinks himself to be one sexy son of a bitch. My opinion on all that is irrelevant—I’m after the man for one reason alone.

Gator was husband to my dad until he wasn’t, and if you ask me, he didn’t need to be so rude about the exit. He was a son of a bitch before, but after the way he treated my dad, he’s a bastard, rabid dog to me, and he needs to be put down.

I had a tip that Gator was trying to return to Australia by way of England, I guess making his way into the southern hemisphere using a network of old friends and outstanding favors. If my information was right, I’d beaten him there by hours—now all that was left to do was mill about the possible points of ingress, and either catch him, or catch a hint to his next move. I’ve been hunting Gator for a while, see. The bastard is not often subtle. His OPSEC, often wack.

In my wait, I ended up gravitating toward a small sandwich shop on the sidewalk, built into a building where I could order through a brick window, very casually. You already know I’m always on the lookout for unknown sandwiches, but were you aware I also enjoy surprises? I ordered the first thing off the menu that I didn’t recognize, alphabetically down the list. “A chip butty,” I said with an affected accent, very obnoxious, stretching the words up and down like limp elastic, “a CHEE-IP butt-tee for me, bon soir.”

And in that British way of doing things, she stiffened her lip and got on with it, keeping calm and carrying me the sandwich on a darling red plastic tray, while I sat on the stone benches nearby, admiring pigeon formations in the clouds. I took a bite without looking—a blind taste test—and immediately, I spat it out. Directly on the tray, which the waitress was still holding. I looked up into her shocked expression.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” I bellowed. “Are we in austerity times here? Is this because of Brexit?”

“What?”

‘Wot?’ Lady, this is a fistful of soggy French fries squirted with ketchup on bread. You said this was a sandwich—I should end your shit for this.”

“Sir—“

“Ma’am.”

“Whatever. I’d be happy to refund to you the price of the meal, friend, if you’d just toss what’s left of it in the bin.”

“Gladly.” I chucked the wet and filthy roll into a garbage can, and scrubbed my fingers with napkin. I’d hardly even gotten a good look at it—my first impression was the portion I spat up, half-chewed French fries and white bread in a small mound, soggy with saliva and ketchup. “What the fuck.”

“Unfortunately,” the vendor continued, “while I would be perfectly happy to refund you your money, I’m afraid I am unable to. It’s a new policy. Because of Brexit.”

“I hope this island gets bombed.”

“Ma’am, please.”

“Or sinks into the ocean, more like. Subsumed in the salty depths. Hey, don’t look at me like that. Yeah, call the police. Bitch, I am an American. I’ll enter a kumite with your harmless-ass police force. Giving me a sandwich like that.”

It took me some days to negotiate my way out of the British court system, which is, as all systems are, susceptible to brute force attacks of unbearable annoyance. They could’ve ordered me deported, and matter of fact, I wish they had. It’s not like Gator Colfin would still be here. 

I took a big piss at the base of Big Ben while I pondered Gator’s widening lead. He’d felt close, days ago. I wasn’t just on his tail, I was ahead of him, damn it! Now he could be anywhere. And I was hungry as the dickens, but every sandwich felt a risk. I could not take a chance on being jailed again.

I was sitting on a bench in the London fog some hours later, smoking shisha out of a small hookah I sometimes carry around with me, holstered at my belt like a sword, and pondering the comical turns my story had taken—I was now a known British criminal, a fully-fledged hooligan, I believe they called them, outsmarted by my rival. And it had only taken one day to make that turn. The circumstances demanded a reset button. I set out for the nearest neighborhood where a fresh meal could be procured.

I found a mini-mart with a lunch counter and scanned the menu, looking for something, anything. But then I realized a way that I could perhaps salvage this horrid misadventure with a bit of casual grace. My eyes went to the special items, and their pictures, and there it was: the chip butty, second chance edition. Clearly, there were things about this nation and its people that I needed to understand, if I was going to get anywhere in my endeavor. May as well dance with the one that brought me to my knees.

“One chip butty,” I ordered, chest bowed out to feel confident. I dropped an indeterminate amount of colorful British currency onto the counter, and ordered a drink—a large one. And then I retired to an alleyway, my sandwich wrapped in hand, Diet Coke cup cradled in my elbow, condensation dripping down onto the cobblestones as I settled myself, and sat.

Okay, I said to myself. Time to reckon with this thing.

The chip butty is a sandwich a four-year-old could make, enjoyed by millions of Britons daily for some reason. The sandwich contains one technical vegetable, the potato, and one technical fruit, the ketchup. It is godawful unhealthy. It is grease, and grime, and grodyness. The sort of sandwich you could only stomach when well and truly drunk.

And that’s when it hit me. Of course! I scrabbled my way out of the alley and towards the nearest pub, the Long Cock, and I shoved my way through the small crowd in attendance, shouting to all and sundry, “I need to be extremely intoxicated immediately! And then I need a plane ticket out of the country! And do any of you know a man by the name of Gator Colfin?”

The drinks came easily. Some were bought for me, by new friends I met with understanding nods. “I’m on a quest for vengeance,” I told them, quaffing whiskey.

“Against whom?”

I opened my mouth to speak, to unspool the tale of Gator Colfin. But then it occurred to me—I had a much more immediate grudge to take care of, and it was growing colder in my coat pocket with every passing moment.

“Ah!” I shouted, reaching boldly for the Jameson to refill my shot glass on the sly. “It’s this!” I said, holding the wax-paper-wrapped package aloft for all the Long Cock faithful. To my surprise, my exclamation merited attention. The bar quieted, and I unwrapped my sandwich. The thick soft white bread slightly smooshed, it was still warm between my hands.

And so I looked down into the awkward maw, a carbohydrate atom bomb that I was about to deliver unto myself. I’m not as scared of carbs as I used to be—where once I starved myself in a single-minded pursuit of the slimmest possible physique, now I work out, and have depression. But still, this was a gnarly thing to look at. But looks aren’t everything—they’re barely half the battle. So I took a breath, and took a bite.

There was the playful texture—soft bread over crispy potato. It crunches, it flakes. And even before the catsup hits your tongue, it’s a surprisingly juicy sandie. Of course, one tries not to think about what sort of juice this is as the answer is almost definitely going to come back as heart-stopping liquid grease. But one ignores these things in the moment. Everything in moderation. It’s like that weekly cigarette—go ahead, inhale. After all, you’re only having one.

I finished it in four breathless bites, the catsup smeared across my lips and nose in an unappealing manner by the time that I was through with it. I’d inhaled the thing. I’d… loved it.

“In my country,” I stammered, from the floor, ringed by thirty-odd half-drunken Britons who had formed a standing circle around my crouching body, “They would give that sandwich to a homeless person. And feel bad about it.”

There was a general grunting of vague agreement.

“I don’t know what this means.” I looked up, and the Queen of England was on the television, drawing my attention. But then I realized that it was not the queen, but an actress in a commercial, playing the queen—a television ad for a sandwich chain. A television ad for chip butty.

There is so much, I realized then. So much in this world I do not know. So many sandwiches… So many miles left to walk… So many sandwiches… the mysteries of the world.

Photo Credit: Food Network .co.uk

A Journey Through The Sandwiches—Patty Melt

Once when I was younger, I asked my younger brother to take out me and my father to—and this is a rough quotation—”a nice local place” for dinner. We were going, two kids and papa, to see an Oklahoma City Thunder game, which is a thing we do, naturally, of course. (You may have heard that we are the best fans in the world, which is always awkward to mention alongside the shared and truly heartfelt sentiment, “condolences, Seattle.”)

So I ask my brother to take me and our dad to a good place. Not a chain—no Outback Steakhouse, right? Let’s get adventurous. My family is very midwestern—I’m always trying to push them into some sort of realm of adventurousness, culinary or otherwise.

One would think, my brother, two years younger than me—his name is Nicholas—would share a similar sort of sentiment—some high-minded pretentiousness—some shit that’s on my level. And indeed, he was, on some level, on my level. But it was the most jarring, shocking thing.

So there we were, me and my dad, driving into the twilight dusk of Oklahoma City, down the 35 Interstate into the fucking Industrial District, where my brother, a mad trickster of some sort, meets us in the parking lot of a gas station, inside of which is a buffet, the name of which is illuminated on a sign just beneath the sign of the gas station itself, which is called the Pesco Stopping Center. The name of the local restaurant that this stopping center houses is the Iron Skillet. There are also showers, for truck drivers. Adjacent to the station is a sprawling abandoned hotel. This is a place where one dumps bodies. No light shines there after dark.

So this was all extremely funny. He admitted under protest that, when he was drunk once, this spot had been a fantastic out-of-the-way place to get a bite to eat. A real gem, as it were.

Anyway, the patty melt is a sandwich you should think of as like a hamburger, but cozier. Everything is given room to stretch out and be its sloppiest self, here. We’re talking chewy, toasty, sourdough bread, thick of crust and soft inside, housing an American-made hamburger patty, and some Americanized sliced cheese. Cheddar, Swiss, Kraft single? Blend them all. Melt them all. Make a stacker. Lace with lettuce. Caramelize onions in hot oil, and layer them liberally inside. Moisten juicily with Thousand Island dressing—the crown jewel of it all, the flavor synthesizer, a close, close cousin, not so secretly, to that savory-sweet national treasure, Big Mac sauce.

Motherfucker, check your pretensions at the gate. Sandwiches are meant to be enjoyed. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Showers are meant to be enjoyed, at a truck stop, next to a restaurant where I eat with my family. Life is stupid. Serve with fries

Photo Credit: Serious Eats