A culinary monstrosity and a favourite of stoners, drunkards and layabouts, Pravasan Pillay bites into the potato chip sandwich.
A few months ago I wrote a review of one of my all-time favourite sandwiches, The Special, here on The Con. I like to think of The Special as a culinary work of art; if there was a Louvre or Guggenheim for sandwich artistry, it would certainly be prominently displayed there.
In contrast, the sandwich – or sandwiches, to be technically accurate, since they’re really more a genre – I’m about to waste 700 words on is more like the crumpled, sticky drawing your three-year-old brings home from daycare, the kind of drawing that looks like your kids were drunk when they picked up their Crayolas, the kind of drawing you want to put underneath your fridge.
The metaphor I’m employing is particularly apt because these sandwiches are usually consumed by kids, stoners and drunk people. I’m talking, of course, about the potato chip sandwich. Disclaimer: I’ll be using the generic term potato chips to refer to the universal category of chips. I’m well aware that there are many other types of chips, for instance, made with corn, beets, cassava, kale, the roots of quinoa plants harvested by virgin Peruvian spinsters, etcetera, etcetera. Please don’t email me or comment about varieties I might have missed. It’s a column about chip sandwiches for fuck’s sake.
What on earth is the potato chip sandwich? you ask, sitting there, smug with your sourdough bun stuffed with organic pulled pork or your hip Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich. Briefly put, it is, without using very complicated cooking jargon, um, potato chips served between two slices of bread.
It’s really simple to make. Here are some instructions for you to bookmark or to print for your recipe journal. Carefully open a packet of, say, Cheese and Onion, remove a handful (or two) of chips, stick ’em between two slices of buttered white bread, and smash everything together. Proceed to eat.
Of course, if you really wanted to, you could replace the white bread with a baguette, a naan or injera or whatever takes your fancy. But honestly plain ol’ white bread works best to capture the front notes of preservatives, diabetes, shame, and, not to forget, the afternotes of ‘what the fuck am I doing with my life.’
Leaving aside the heart disease concerns for the moment, it’s hard to deny that the double-carb potato chip sandwich is damn delicious and filling. The soft bread is basically a blank vehicle onto which your chip of choice imbues its flavour. The bread also creates the illusion that you’re eating something vaguely good for you – and of course, the variety of flavours is limitless. There really is a chip flavour for everything these days, ranging from peri-peri and Marmite to Ritalin.
A potato chip sandwich always has an improvisational quality to it. It’s basically the free jazz of the shitty snack world. Nobody gets up in the morning and thinks to themselves: “I should rush off to Woolies and buy some ingredients if I’m gonna make myself a potato chip sandwich for brunch.” Nope, a chip sandwich is usually the last resort when there’s nothing left in the house and you’re too tired or too drunk or too broke to go to the supermarket.
It’s probably one of saddest sandwiches in the world. Incidentally, the title of the saddest sandwich in existence surely must go to the toast sandwich. A toast sandwich is a slice of toasted bread placed between two slices of regular bread. This is real thing.
Personally, when I was growing up, my chip sandwich of choice was white bread festooned with florets of nuclear orange cheese Niknaks. It had a great crunch and texture and if you closed your eyes tight, it tasted like really, really old stale, moldy cheese. These days, of course, I’m much more sophisticated and usually scrap a little Parmesan over my Niknaks sandwich. Actually, I should make one right now. Be back in 10 seconds.