Building the Best Sandwich

NOTE: No pics yet, as I'm trying to reacquaint myself with blogging, and my digital camera literally has dust on it.  I could use my smart phone to take a picture. But I still work (incorrectly) under the assumption that pictures from a smart phone is for suckers.

We at Casa de Hopkins have taken up a challenge that involves creating the best sandwich using ingredients culled from local supermarkets. The reason? Well, two reasons, really:

  1. We like sandwiches, as they make for an easy dinner project.
  2. There is a novelty to finding out what works for us. In essence, we're using a loose version of the scientific method to creating the best sandwich. We critique each meal we create, and try to find each one's weakness and strength. This amuses both of us to no end.

What we've learned thus far?

  • The bread used is critical. That may sound obvious at first, but even when you start playing around with using baguettes, ciabattas, or other similar "artisinal"-type breads, there are still winners and losers. But mostly we've learned that sliced bread is not the place to start. Our favorite thus far? Pretzel rolls.
  • Meat by itself is not enough for a great sandwich. Not even if you add bacon or some version of salami.
  • Mouth-feel is critical, equal to that of taste.

So far, our top sandwich is a turkey breast with genoa salami and havarti cheese, heated at 500 degrees for 7 minutes, and then served on a non-toasted pretzel roll with lettuce, tomatoes and some sort of dressing. It's good, but not great. I will try to document future sandwiches (along with pics) in the future.  





Baloney and Salami

I want to let you know right off of the bat that I am weird. Unlike some, I do not wear this as a badge of honor. Rather, I make the claim to forewarn you, as some of the stuff I will write will be difficult to understand without understanding its context. To explain that context would require reams of expository text as well as a fair bit oftime. These are indulgences that I'd rather not give in to at the moment. So, as a shortcut, anything that you read that you do not understand from this point forward, just chalk it up to , "Well Kate? Kate is weird."

With that in mind, let me open the door to my past just a wee bit. When I was in third grade, so many, many years ago, I believed that a baloney sandwich was the height of adulthood. In my mind, children ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Adults? Adults ate baloney sandwiches.

It was soon afterwards that I amended this theory. Adults ate salami sandwiches. Children ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Baloney? Baloney was dull and uninspired. Especially on white bread.

I state all of this because I am about to begin on a new quest. I am going to explore the world of charcuterie and cold cuts. And this little bit of insight into my my youthful mindset is going to be the foundation of all of this.

See? What did I tell you? I might as well have written toyou that I collect butterflies, or have an extensive beer can collection. Instead, you get a first hand exploration of the deli counter.


The Place of Food

If you want to push my buttons, it's to put the topic of food under the 'Lifestyle" category. Food is no more of a lifestyle choice than our biological excretions.

At the very beginning, food is simply a means of gaining nutrition andenergy, and is therefore biological. From that point, it becomes a commodity, bringing it under the 'Economic' umbrella. As we are biologically omnivores, it means that we are not dealing with one commodity, but thousands.  The selection of food from those thousands of options rely upon its accessibility, putting it under, at first, the geographical umbrella, and then back to the economic, as we seek different types of food not readily available in our immediate region.

At the macro-level, because one metric of economics is currency, this lends itself to the political. Once you establish the political, it establishes the need for the historical, in order to better understand the context of the current era.

At the micro-level, the economics of food can confer status (i.e. those with more money can afford types of food that those lacking money cannot). It is this that helps drive the cultural. Only at that point does the word 'lifestyle' become applicable. 

It gets more complicated at this point, as the word 'lifestyle' can connote intent. But in reality, everyone has their own food 'lifestyle', even if one does not consciously choose one.  The act of deliberately choosing a food 'lifestyle' is a privilege conferred by the state of one's finances or associated class status.

Let me be clear, 'privilege' is not something one needs to address, but neither is it undeniable. Today, as of this writing, I have the ability to purchase a ticket to Alinea and a round trip ticket to Chicago, without undue financial burden. That matters to some degree. Or rather, my ability to do that, and the inability for others to do that, matters. That difference shapes our relationship to food.

Is food a 'lifestyle'? But it is so much more than that. By focusing solely on the lifestyle aspect, it does a great disservice to the topic and how food relates to us as individuals, how it relates to our immediate environment,  how it relates to the country in which we live, and how it does so to the world at large.



Whenever someone pursues an 'artistic' path, it's easy at first.  This is due to being clueless.  "Ignorance is bliss", as the old cliche goes, and that lack of knowledge allows most people to approach any artistic pursuit with abandon. 

After pursuing said endeavor for a while, some patterns become clear. You learn things - what works, what doesn't - and then you rely upon what works for a period of time.

And then? And then things stop working.

This is where I am at in regards to writing.

It was easy at first.  I wrote about myself for a while, on a long-retired blog, and connected with some folks. I moved onto writing about food, on this blog, and connected with even more people.  I was able to parlay that into a small book deal with a major publishing house, and that's where things went awry.

The books reached a far smaller audience than this blog did in its heyday.  But the standards to which they are judged are rigorous, in ways that blogs are not.

Books are judged by the bottom line. In other words - Did you make the publisher money? This I had little problem with.  Books will find an audience, and the major publishing houses ensure that the proper amount of exposure is given. My publisher did fine work in that regard.

Books are also judged in more nebulous ways, and the one that trapped me was that of authenticity. 

The punch line here? It's me doing the judging. I am the one who is unhappy with my writing. I am the one who thinks that there has to be a better way to make food history palatable than tying that history to a glorified road trip. 

At any rate, here I am, still alive, still trying to figure things out. I know I should up my game. I just don't know what that looks like.



The 20 highest summits of the United States

Rank    Peak            State        Elevation
1    Mount McKinley        Alaska        20,236 ft./ 6168 m
2    Mount Saint Elias    Alaska        18,009 ft./ 5489 m
3    Mount Foraker        Alaska        17,400 ft./ 5304 m
4    Mount Bona        Alaska        16,550 ft./ 5044 m
5    Mount Blackburn        Alaska        16,390 ft./ 4996 m
6    Mount Sanford        Alaska        16,237 ft./ 4949 m
7    Mount Fairweather    Alaska        15,299 ft./ 4663 m
8    Mount Hubbard        Alaska        15,016 ft./ 4577 m
9    Mount Bear        Alaska        14,831 ft./ 4520 m
10    Mount Hunter        Alaska        14,573 ft./ 4442 m
11    Mount Alverstone    Alaska        14,564 ft./ 4439 m
12    Mount Whitney        California    14,505 ft./ 4421 m
13    University Peak        Alaska        14,470 ft./ 4410 m
14    Mount Elbert        Colorado    14,440 ft./ 4401 m
15    Mount Massive        Colorado    14,428 ft./ 4398 m
16    Mount Harvard        Colorado    14,421 ft./ 4396 m
17    Mount Rainier        Washington    14,417 ft./ 4393 m
18    Mount Williamson    California    14,379 ft./ 4383 m
19    La Plata Peak        Colorado    14,343 ft./ 4372 m
20    Blanca Peak        Colorado    14,357 ft./ 4376 m

Lake Washington

Lake Washington, from a bench in Kirkland, WA

Lake Washington, from a bench in Kirkland, WA

Lake Washington is the largest lake in King County and the second largest natural lake in the state of Washington. Seattle is found on the Western shore of the lake, Bellevue on the eastern, Kenmore on the Northern, and Renton on the south. Mercer Island sits just off of the western shore, in the southern half of the lake, which you'll barely get to see if you take Interstate 90 from Seattle to Bellevue.

The lake is fed by the Sammamish River at its north end and the Cedar River at its south. However, when we talk about "rivers", don't expect the grandeur of the Mississippi or Alleghany. These are smaller rivers, akin to creeks to those of us imagining the Thames or the Danube when we hear the word 'river'.

Lake Washington is a deep, narrow, glacial trough, created by the Vashon glacier as it receded from the area, roughly 12,000 years or so ago. The lake is 20.6 feet above mean lower low tide in Puget Sound, to which it is connected via Lake Union, the Lake Washington ship canal, and the Chittenden Locks. The canal is the only discharge from Lake Washington via the locks and dam at the western end. The development of the canals, dam, and locks resulted in the lowering of the lake 9 feet to its present level

Lake Washington was named by Thomas Mercer in 1854, when he suggested it be named after George Washington, as the new Washington Territory had been named the year before.

Other names for Lake Washington have included the Duwamish/Lushootseed name HAH-choo or Xachu  ,(translating into "great-amount-of-water"), as well as Lake Geneva, Lake Duwamish, and in Chinook (Chinook being the intertribal trading language),  it was called "Hyas Chuck," which means  "Big Lake."

Seattle - How Now Puget Sound


The location of Seattle is unique insofar as it is one of the largest cities in America to be situated upon a sound. It’s not the largest city in America to have this distinction – that’d be New York City, who finds itself on the west end of the Long Island Sound

What defines a sound is dependent upon which geological definition you use; either the Scandinavian definition, which means a strait, or the narrowest part of a straight, or the 18th century English definition, which means a sea inlet that contains islands. This is the definition used for the Puget Sound.

This definition helps explain the fact that Seattle is a coastal city located upon the Pacific Ocean, even if it is around one hundred miles or so from open sea. This is a fact that is easy to ignore at times due to looking across the sound and seeing various aspects of the Olympic Peninsula.

Puget Sound is defined as all waters of the Hood Canal, the Admiralty Inlet, the Possession Sound, and the Saratoga Passage, among others. Essentially, if one were to draw a line from Mount Vernon, to Port Townsend, Puget Sound would include all waters of the inlet from that line, down to Budd Inlet in the south by Olympia.  That’s a body of water that stretches approximately one hundred miles.

Seattle is located on the Eastern Edge of the Puget Sound, and this aspect of the city is the primary, but certainly not only, defining geologic feature of the region.

All of the Puget Sound region was shaped in larger part due to the Fraser Glaciation. Evidence of glaciation is easily seen today all along the Puget Sound area. The Fraser glaciation lasted about 10,000 years and consisted of 3 periods of ice expansion (called “stades”) and 2 ice recessions (called “interstades”). The Puget Sound was shaped by the Puget Lobe portion of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet that was part of the Fraser Glaciation that shaped much of the Montana, Idaho, Washington, British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska.  The Puget Lobe portion of this ice sheet made it as far south as modern-day Olympia.  As it retreated over the course of many thousands of years, it geologically shaped many of the water ways of the region, including Puget Sound, as well as Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Lake Sammamish to the east.

The retreat also helps explain the hilly nature of the region, though not so much the mountainous portions, whose shapes were created under different forces.

Sowing the Seeds of Fear

The title is borrowed from Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times in relation to the Paris attacks of November 13th, 2015. In it, the dear Professor offers a straight up assessment of the situation:

So what was Friday’s attack about? Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness. It isn’t going to establish a caliphate in Paris. What it can do, however, is inspire fear — which is why we call it terrorism, and shouldn’t dignify it with the name of war.
The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire.

It's easy to look upon the images on the news, and sit, in real-time, on Twitter and Facebook as the events unfurl in front of us.  We end up aghast.  It is easy to let that initial response be our de facto position on this tragedy.  But it is not a sustainable position.

Or, we can tut-tut those who fail to feel equally bad about the tragedies that occur in other nations of the world, including those not often covered by our for-profit, grab-all-headlines-at-any-cost news networks. This approach is also not helpful in any manner other than to allow us to feel more worldly and more informed than others. It does nothing to address the responses others felt as they watched the violence erupt in a city that is culturally significant to many people who don't call France home.

What happened is first and foremost a tragedy, and sadness and disgust are understandable responses.  But we do get to choose how to move on from it.  "Fear" as a response, as Krugman reminds us, is exactly what the perpetrators want. This is evil, through and through.

However, just as evil, is the leveraging of these events for political gain, and to use the pain and sadness of others to justify a position that is at odds with our own. Fear allows this leveraging just as much as seeing the world through some fundamentalist lens.

So what is the proper response to these and other similar events? From my own perspective, I mourn the losses, and understand what is being attacked. Look at the places attacked - a football game, a full restaurant, a rock concert - and ask the following:

"Should I not go to sporting events, concerts, or a restaurant, in order to be perfectly safe?"

All of these places are culturally significant to a great many of us. Do we really want to alter our enjoyment of these places because some fundamentalist with a chip on their shoulder thinks we should feel less safe?

Now let's expand that question a bit - Do we really want to allow these people to alter our behaviors just because they reminded us that life is fragile?  This insight their act provided isn't new to anyone.

From where I am sitting, the only response to these atrocities is to be sad, be brave, and be a citizen of the world. At its core, we are all entitled to what the entirety of life has to offer, regardless of what an idiot with a gun and a dogma happen to believe.