Would Someone Please Sell Me a Tomato Sandwich?

  • The tomato sandwich. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Large ripe tomatoes for the perfect tomato sandwich. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/22/2017 10:00:20 PM
Modified: 8/22/2017 10:00:27 PM

This time of year it’s a mystery to me why no one sets up a roadside stand selling tomato sandwiches. Wouldn’t it be a gold mine?

I can’t take credit for this idea, which was first brought up by a friend in Burlington in 1994. She envisioned something like a child’s lemonade stand with a cooler and an old card table, a cutting board and a worn, thin-bladed kitchen knife, paper plates and napkins. Above it all would rise a sign, no doubt written in magic marker on cardboard, bearing the legend “Mater Sammich.”

Every year, this vision comes back to me among with the displays of local slicing tomatoes, those big red or yellow beauties that seem to reach the farmers markets in greater numbers with each passing summer.

Alas, if such a stand exists, it must be on a road I haven’t driven.

Surely some teenager with an entrepreneurial bent would be willing to spend the summer cultivating, oh, three dozen tomato plants, and learning the ins and outs of homemade bread and mayonnaise in order to make a killing in the three weeks before school starts. If diners in San Francisco are shelling out 10 bucks for an artful slice of toast, what would a perfect tomato sandwich be worth at a stand next to Route 4A by Mascoma Lake, or on Route 12 between Hartland Three- and Four-Corners?

At the lunch hour, what wouldn’t I give for a couple of thick slices of ripe tomato, salted and peppered, on good bread — make mine whole wheat, please — slathered with mayonnaise? It is the perfect meal for a warm day.

Under other circumstances, I would argue that the king of sandwiches is the BLT, and that a grilled cheese and tomato has its charms. But not now, not when the tomatoes are just right, time is short and one of life’s greatest and simplest pleasures is so close at hand.

The great thing about a tomato sandwich is that it need not be fancy, artisanal, heirloom, free-range, organic or in tune with its terroir to be great. A ripe tomato dresses up any kind of bread, though a good mayo is essential.

The difficult thing is that you can’t make one and take it to work in your lunchpail. The tomato juices would soak through the bread, ruining everything. No, a tomato sandwich much be made and consumed all at once.

A roadside stand would be ideal. It really would. I bet there’d be franchising opportunities.

Until that happens, I’ll be making the occasional tomato sandwich at home. There’s really no need for a recipe, but here’s one anyway. Give me a shout when you hang out your “Mater Sammich” shingle. I’ll be your first and best customer.

Tomato Sandwich

I like a big slicing tomato, one so big that a single thick slice covers a piece of bread, but any ripe tomato will do. Ripeness is all.

I’m not terribly picky about bread, but I think you want something sweet, rather than a rye or a sourdough. Mayo is another story: Only Hellmann’s will do, unless you make your own.




Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the tomato to the desired thickness. Spread mayonnaise on the slices of bread. Yes, both slices. Place tomato slices on one piece of bread, then apply salt and pepper before closing the second piece of bread. This sandwich can be messy, so cut the thing in half and maybe tuck a napkin into your shirt collar. I could see a few potato chips on the plate — kettle cooked, lightly salted, very crunchy — but a good tomato sandwich needs no accompaniment.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.

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