Planning this month’s cover story about Orange County’s best sandwiches took an interesting turn a few months ago. The staff gathered to discuss some of our local favorites, and how to best present the results of dining writer Gretchen Kurz’s research to our Orange Coast readers.
A good many of us ended up talking about ourselves. Sandwiches, it turns out, are as reliable a taproot into memory as music or the smell of mom’s perfume.
One by one, staffers recalled the favorites of their childhoods. Senior editor Chris Christensen got misty about the bologna-and-mustard-on-white-bread concoction her grandmother made for fishing trips. Editorial assistant Astgik Khatchatryan lovingly described her Armenian mother’s pita stuffed with feta, scallions, and parsley. And production director Glenda Espinoza added later that she didn’t have a favorite, then spent 15 minutes making “mmm” sounds about a watercress-and-beet sandwich from her native El Salvador.
Like managing editor Jim Walters, I have a special place for what I called sugar sandwiches—white bread, sugar, and butter (to keep the sugar on the bread), which include in one handful pretty much everything modern parents are told not to feed their kids. But I also realized how I can link almost any phase of my life to a sandwich. The chopped barbecue pork symphonies of my Alabama childhood. My Philadelphia cheesesteak obsession while a student at a Pennsylvania university. The hot pepper-covered sub that opened my mind to the wider world like a psychotropic drug, and did wonders for my sinuses as well.
Kurz’s list is much more refined, including choices such as an albacore tuna Reuben at Sapphire Laguna and a Media Noche Cubano at Eat Chow in Costa Mesa. We hope you enjoy her ode to the Earl of Sandwich as much as we have—and create some great memories along the way.
Martin J. Smith
Illustration by John Ueland