Traveler's MVP: The sandwich

BY ROBERT REID Published: November 4, 2011
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Whenever they get around to making the Travel Hall of Fame, I’m sure passports, rail passes, compasses, roller suitcases and maps will be high on the list of inductees.

But there’s one thing, in my mind, that trumps them all: sandwiches.

Nothing is a bigger friend to the traveler. A sandwich -- a portable, tidy and easy-to-make sandwich (even my dad could put one together) -- is always there to provide extra pep, as we require nearly four times the energy just to hike a riverside trail or walk a city street than sit in a car or at a computer back home.

So it’s time to give sandwiches, the subject of last week’s quiet National Sandwich Day, their due.

I grew up on peanut-and-butter, bologna and the grilled-cheese variety, but I only learned how far a sandwich could go when I hit the road.

On road trips in the U.S., I grew tired of McDonald’s and opted to stop in small-town grocery store delis, chat up the staff while they made turkey-swiss-mustard-on-rye from scratch. It just felt better.

But things really changed in Switzerland, where I discovered it’s perfectly OK to smear chocolate on bread. Pressed for Swiss Francs in the expensive Alps, I’d buy a baguette and use my finger to fill it with Nutella chocolate spread and eat in public parks.

Europe, I love you!

In Asia, I learned a sandwich could crunch -- and still be delicious. The Vietnamese banh mi fills a baguette with grilled pork and things like pickled leek. Leek? And it works.

In fact, banh mi revolution is crossing the U.S. these day (you’ll find no better ones anywhere than Saigon Baguette or Lee’s Sandwiches in the Asian District of Oklahoma City).

I was fascinated by small things too, such as the sandwich culture of London, where locals would queue up -- no "lines" in the UK -- and pick-and-point from a stacked array of ready-made odd sandwiches (jellied eel?) behind glass counters.

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