“America is a confirmed sandwich nation. Everywhere you go you find sandwich stands, sandwich shops, and nine out of 10 people seem to stick to the sandwich-and-glass-of-milk or cup-of-coffee luncheon.”
So said James Beard, the master of modern American cooking, who died in 1985. I suppose that he was right. But, to be honest, I have never given all that much thought to sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve consumed and enjoyed hundreds, if not thousands, of sandwiches of all stripes during my life.
Grilled cheese and bologna were staples of my childhood; I can still remember exactly how it felt to open up the red Oscar Mayer package and pull out the perfectly round slices of meat. I’d fold them in half and play with them before slapping them on white toast slathered with Miracle Whip. (This begs two questions — does anyone actually eat bologna anymore? And what’s become of Miracle Whip? I’m here to tell you that I’ve just stumbled upon a Facebook page, with more than 150,000 fans, dedicated to overcoming the bias against Miracle Whip.) Then there was tuna salad, also on toast — I only liked chunk white and only the way that my mother made it. I was considered a problem on play dates because I flat out refused to eat peanut butter and jelly. Despite the fact that I like peanut butter and love both bread and jelly, for some reason, the combination repulses me. I have never actually eaten a PB&J sandwich. As I grew a bit older, ham and cheddar took center stage (we never ate Swiss Cheese in my house for reasons that were never revealed), and when I was a teenager I switched to Hellman’s mayonnaise and added a variety of mustards to the mix.
Luckily, my tastes have become a bit more sophisticated — and so have sandwiches everywhere, including here in the Valley. You can now find an endless combination of meats, cheeses, breads, toppings, sauces, and condiments at delis and eateries throughout the region. We couldn’t taste all the sandwiches in the Valley — though we wanted to try — but we’ve compiled more than a dozen standouts for our cover story that begins here. So, get off the computer and get out for lunch today.
Also in this issue we take a look at the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in the Catskills. As we approach the one-year anniversary of that fateful storm (one of the top 10 worst disasters ever to occur in this country), we turn our attention to two of the towns most devastated by the unprecedented flooding: Prattsville and Windham. Darryl Rafferty of the Mid-Hudson chapter of the American Red Cross told me that, when touring the region the day after the storm, he saw cardboard signs attached to people’s mailboxes that listed the number of adults and children stranded in the home. Many of them said, “Red Cross — we’re hungry, please stop with food.” Says Rafferty of the destruction, “I had never seen anything like this.”
But there is a silver lining to this tragedy. While there is still much work to be done, these communities have come together and rallied in impressive ways to rebuild. The story, which begins here, is inspiring.
Enjoy the issue.
Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief