When we offered a defense of simple recipes (some might call them "recipes") a couple weeks back, we didn't take into account one particularity of those recipes in question: By many accounts, overloaded tomato sandwiches are not tomato sandwiches at all.
Turns out, there's just as much—if not more—consternation involving tomato sandwiches that are needlessly complicated. The beauty, many adamantly believe, is in the minimalist maximalism. It is more because it is less.
But while we respect the classic and salute the simple, we simply couldn't help ourselves. We let the tomatoes go straight to our heads!
There's the don't-touch-it Southern tomato sandwich on the very left, yes, and then four others that are a little berserk. They're not competitors, though—they're disciples. They follow the same carby-creamy-tomatoey-salty formula, but they're eccentric. You probably wouldn't want to eat them standing over the sink; some might even ask that you bring out a fork and knife.
There are plenty of staunch and smart 3-ingredient-tomato-sandwich defenders out there. Listen to James Beard Award-winning cookbook author (who we thank, especially, for these Genius Deviled Eggs) Virginia Willis when she says that her
hands-down, absolute favorite way of eating a tomato in summer is served sliced on white bread with mayonnaise. No chiffonade of basil or tender leaves of oregano. No artisan sourdough bread. No extra virgin olive oil. No hand-pounded garlic aioli. No hand-harvested sea salt. No lemon zest. Not even a slice of crisp, applewood-smoked bacon. Out, out, damn spots of cracked Tellicherry pepper!
Or to Julia, writer of I Believe I Can Fry, who understands that while
it might be hard to fight the urge to add other ingredients like mustard or cheese or pickle slices, [r]esist the urge. Don't add lettuce or bacon—this is a tomato sandwich, not a BLT. [...] I'm sure these changes/additions make some damn fine sandwiches, but it won't make a Southern tomato sandwich. Just sayin'.
Just feel the FOMO laid on thick in the headnote of the 5-star rated Food.com recipe: "If you've only used tomatoes as an accessory in your sandwiches, and not as the Featured Ingredient, you are truly missing summer as it was meant to be tasted." A smack straight to the stomach.
So the cards are stacked against us. Tomatodirt.com lists four known tomato sandwich debates (peeled versus unpeeled, thickness of slices, bread type, mayo type), and now we've added many, many more. Some of the sandwiches above are even best open-faced. (And is an open-faced sandwich really a sandwich at all? ...Is anything sacred?)
So make, try, and enjoy a simple-as-can-be tomato sandwich. And then, if you're with us (we repeat: tomato sandwich police will never know), you can experiment with a few more elaborate versions, too:
We're not the only loopy ones: Ever since tomatoes cropped up at markets, we've been seeing them slapped on and between slices of bread on our (Not)Recipes app, and you're doing wacko things, too: adding dried thyme; using seedy breads, and even pumpernickel; throwing on some mozzarella cheese; swapping mayo for pesto... Quite a few of you add avocado.
Luckily, our appetite for tomatoes is such that we'll happily alternate between the super-classic and the super-creative until the changing seasons stop us.
You buy a tomato with the intention of making a sandwich. What's your next move? Tell us in the comments below.
This article was originally published in 2016, but we can't get enough tomato sandwiches, so we're sharing it again.