I’m posting this because, really, I can’t believe I wrote it either:
The sourdough bread, I bought it from Albertson’s. I bought it because I liked the taste of it (not too sharp but not too mild either) and its crisp airiness like morning on the edge of the desert and because it has seeds scattered along the bottom that make a mess when I carve the loaf but taste and feel so good in my mouth.
The mozerella is plain, straight-up, no-nonsense sandwich cheese. It’s the kind Charlie likes, firm and unassuming and native. It’s got a mild savoury taste and is just soft enough to yield under a knife. It’s a working man’s cheese, the kind of cheese you know around here even if you don’t know any others, but it’s still real cheese.
The mushrooms are ripe and full and subtle, and crunch softly when I chew them. They always feel a little bit damp, but in a good way, freshly-washed, like spring. I love mushrooms, and I love the dark Italian mushrooms. They’re not great to fry up with butter, although that’s heavenly, but they are just perfect on a sandwich.
The Dijon is my favorite kind, Maille, yellow like the sand in Lawrence of Arabia and tangy but not really sharp. It complements the earthy flavor of the mushrooms and the sharpness of the bread and the savory taste of the cheese.
On the side, I laid two pickles, kosher dills, cut in spears. They’re sharp, they’re sour, they drive all other flavors before them with fire and the sword. A great complement, but not between the slices.
I like to heat them up just enough so the cheese is loose, usually in the microwave. My uncle once pontificated on the horrors of microwaved food, that the radiation turns the cheese into a glue-like substance, but I’m long since damned, all my works gummed up. It’s at just the point where the cheese coats your mouth but you can pick up the sandwich with your fingers.
Each bite is wonderful, uncanny, like an old friend you’ve always liked for his spontaneity. Each bite is the same interplay of basic forces: sour, tangy, savory and earthy. But each one plays out differently. And, at intervals, I pop a bit of spear in my mouth and feel how sharp it is, the metallic taste of the pickle spear stabbing my tongue. I drink it with a Pepsi to wash it all down with, the sticky, syrupy sweetness offsetting everything else.
Pepsi is bad for you, too, but I’m long since damned and have come to terms with my damnation. My roommates call it ‘writer fuel.’
Finally, I reach the end of my sandwich, the last lonely end of pickle, and the last mouthful of Pepsi. With a deep, contented sigh, I inhale the last morsels of each, and sit back. Such heavy food, American food no less (if you could call what Americans eat food). And yet, I feel energized, not lethargic. This was a repast, rather than a heavy-laden meal. I didn’t even realize I was hungry before, but I am content now, and slide down in my chair, propping my feet up, enjoying the last few notes between my teeth, the fullness in the mouth and the eighty-percent-full-ness in the belly.
And I begin to write.
I have been eating cheese sandwiches, with Pepsi and pickles, at one in the morning, since I was thirteen. This is my ritual, my offering to the muses, my holy sacrament. I curl up around my beloved cheese sandwich and let my words grow like mushrooms in a damp wood, my characters culturing and outgassing like good hard cheese, my plots and themes and symbols and alchemy mixing like the mustard spices and growing like the sourdough in the oven.
I don’t know what the pickles symbolize, or the Pepsi, but they’re in there, somewhere, too. Creation is inhaling, and digesting, and exhaling again. You are what you eat, you know. And your writing is what you eat, too.