In Defense of Flavor

I am one of those Americans who has had the good fortune to be able to travel all over the world. The first time I was in Europe and happened to order a sandwich at an airport shop I noticed two things. Firstly, the bread was a fresh baguette, not an afterthought. It was most likely made that morning by hand. Secondly, what was between the bread didn't look like enough. One slice of meat, a slice of cheese and maybe some tomato. Still, I ordered what looked good and was surprised at how amazingly flavorful it was.

Go to any American chain restaurant and order a sandwich. It comes on bread, but the bread is not considered important. Otherwise, why would it occasionally be stale? Usually restaurant bread is whatever they can get at the cheapest price. The sandwich filling is quite a bit more substantial, but not particularly flavorful. 

We in the States tend to think that salt and fat equals flavor. At least the people who are selling us our food seem to think that's all it takes.

I just went to a local cheese shop and came home with a fresh long baguette, rosemary olive oil, a roasted red pepper, some Serrano ham sliced paper thin, and an assortment of cheese, my favorites being smoked bleu and 7-year Quebec Cheddar. 

Slicing the bread on a bias about 1/2 inch thick, I ended up with a couple 5 inch slices. I brushed each side with olive oil, sprinkled on kosher salt and laid down a single slice of ham, a thin slice of Cheddar, and a bit of roasted red pepper. It didn't look like much, but BAM! What flavor!

I live by the rule that any kind of sauce should be reduced and reduced and reduced more until it's naturally thick. Start with a little chicken or vegetable stock, add herbs, butter, a little soy sauce, some wine, meat drippings if possible, and reduce it down to a thick sauce. You can pour right over your main dish or use it as a sandwich spread. Big flavor.

So, when cooking and shopping, opt for more flavorful food as opposed to mass quantities of less flavorful. Your mouth will thank you, and so will those you cook for. :)


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Reader Comments (7)

I totally agree with Carl. I had a nearly identical experience at Gare du Nord train station in Paris: a tiny (by US standards), demi-baguette sandwich with one slice of ham and one slice of cheese. Neatly wrapped with a napkin. It was amazing.

You can get away with a minimal sandwich if each of your ingredients is *really good*:

1. Iberian Ham
2. An ACME Bread baguette from Berkeley, California.
3. Homemade mayonaise
4. English Maldon Salt
5. Swiss Emmentaler or Grueyere Cheese

It’s a damn U.N. sandwich (yes, Switzerland joined the UN in 2002).

Now I’m lucky enough to walk only a block or two from my house and get all of the above. Not everyone is so fortunate. Access to fresh produce, locally made bread, and artisan meats and cheeses is only something recently “rediscovered” even here in America. In Europe, I imagine that’s been the only way for, well, ever.

The Smithsonian has a fantastic exhibit about American Food. The Berkeley bakery I mentioned above, along with Chez Pannise, has a special mention.

I do have a soft-spot for an Oscar Mayer fried-baloney sandwich on Wonder Bread. Or any bread with Nutella.

January 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterScott Stanfield

Jamie Oliver makes the best damn, grilled steak sandwich. So simple, and serves 4 easily.

You take a big Italian loaf and slice it lengthwise. The juices from a rosemary rib-eye, with rocket (or arugula) and English mustard...oh my god. Made this several times. So easy.

January 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterScott Stanfield

Great video, Scott! He's right, of course. Fresh ingredients simply done. Nothing better.

January 31, 2015 | Registered CommenterCarl Franklin

Hit the nail on the head, Carl. Once you start eating fresh and natural foods, the traditional American diet leaves something to be desired. Now don't get me wrong, I'll occasionally splurge and get a juicy angus burger with applewood smoked bacon, mushrooms, and onion rings crowned with a couple layers of pepper jack cheese, but my body always gets the last word after the few minutes of pleasure.

January 31, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterScott Dewald


June 30, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersalman khan

Amazing information in the post

July 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGovt Jobs in India
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