Consider the sandwich.
The Philly cheesesteak, dainty cucumber nibbles at high tea, dagwood towers of Thanksgiving leftovers and Wonder bread, the bahn mi, the club, the Elvis. Each with its own specific architecture, its own ratios of texture and flavor layered between two slices of bread. A portable meal, self-contained and square.
Regional cooking can often be summed up by the sandwiches: is it a muffuletta or a Reuben kind of town? Are your sandwiches slathered in cheese sauce and French fries, Horseshoe-style, or stuffed with lobster meat and a slick of mayo, as in Maine? All sorts of anthropological insights might be explored, but if I’m tucking into a airy-crisp, cornmeal battered oyster po’boy, I will probably be way too busy to notice. Pass the tartar sauce, please.
If there’s such a thing as a national sandwich, though, one that has quietly thrived in the family restaurants and greasy spoons all across this great land of ours, it must be the BLT. (The almighty burger, while technically a sandwich, should be shelved in its own specific category, to my mind. Discuss.) Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, abbreviated in the diner patois of bouffanty kiss-my-grits waitresses and short order cooks. Three ingredients, held together by toasted white bread and a thick swipe of Hellmann’s. (Or Duke’s, if you’re lucky.) Uncomplicated, wholly American and quite possibly the ideal sandwich.
If you’ve lovingly tended tomato plants this past spring, I can’t think of any better showcase for your efforts now that they’re in their full glory. Think of the B, the L and the bread as a stage and the mayo as a spotlight: this is the tomato’s time to shine.
And if you’ve never tried making mayonnaise at home, give it a whirl, at least once. It may sound kind of fussy, making mayonnaise from scratch, but with a food processor it’s really rather easy, and the depth of flavor is vastly superior to the pasteurized store-bought version we grew up on. If you still have green garlic at your farmer’s market, you’re in luck: add a handful of finely chopped spring garlic for a bright, not-too-sharp-just-right aioli. It’s heaven on a BLT.