'If you want to be known as an excellent cook, then you should become a champion of the less-than-perfect ingredients.'

Aug 3, 2016

Tyler Kord, chef-owner of No. 7 Restaurant and No. 7 Sub, and author of the wonderfully titled A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, argues that vegetables are the equal of roast beef for sandwiches, makes the case for less-than-perfect ingredients, and asks you (yes, you) to reconsider that to-go bag.

I am deeply in love with broccoli, on what is a potentially dysfunctional level. Another potential sign of my dysfunction is that when I think about broccoli and gloopy, takeout Chinese garlic sauce over rice, I get a little screwed up inside, and then I go and get gnarly drunk in the shower because the hot water is a perfect contrast for an icy cold beer. Then I go and make a broccoli sandwich.

Tyler Kord (Photo: Noah Fecks)

All vegetables make excellent sandwiches, and the fact that anybody is ever surprised that I make sandwiches with vegetables as main ingredients is perplexing to me. I’m not sure why some people think roasted cauliflower is somehow less satisfying than roast beef, but it’s exactly that attitude that means I’ll end up having to describe what roast beef tasted like to my grandchildren.

Our food system is so broken because of the exaggerated amount of resources required to raise animals quickly enough to feed the zombie hordes that I wouldn’t be surprised if wars start over roast beef. I guess maybe people think that society can collapse at any moment, so they need to eat as much meat as possible to stock up on protein, just in case there isn’t any for a while. I don’t live my life in fear of terrorism or identity theft or any of the horrible things that I can’t do anything about. So I live my life as if it is going to go on for 1000 years and thus, I have time for an asparagus sandwich when I feel like it.

Chefs and the people that talk about food on television are fond of saying that you should find the best, freshest ingredients possible to make the best food. I get so bummed out every time I hear somebody say something so ignorant and destructive. I mean, if everybody is supposed to be looking for the best, freshest ingredients possible, what do these chefs and food personalities think should be done with the ingredients that are neither the best nor the freshest? Throw them all away? I think maybe it would be more productive to teach people how to make food taste great, so the cheap, bruised, slightly-past-its-prime asparagus is pretty delicious, too. It just needs a little fried garlic, lime juice, olive oil, and salt, and it’s going to be awesome.


A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches (Courtesy of Clarkson Potter. Cover photo copyright © 2016 by Noah Fecks.)

Of course, if you want to be known as an excellent grocery shopper, continue to try to find the world’s best, freshest tomato. Slice it, season it with salt and olive oil, and serve it to your friends. They will undoubtedly be impressed, but if you want to be known as an excellent cook, then you should become a champion of the less-than-perfect ingredients. Make it a point to find food that doesn’t look great, and turn it into something that transcends itself. That is what cooking is all about: Pleasing people. Not pleasing people at the expense of food suppliers and landfills, just pleasing people. This will be so delicious, and you deserve something delicious.

Or maybe you don’t. You’re not the customer who orders a sandwich and then, upon receiving it, asks for a bag in the rudest way you can possibly muster, are you? We have these customers who get so frustrated because they are not immediately handed a bag, and this is for a single sandwich already wrapped and sealed in wax paper. And they have to let me know how upset they are.

I don’t automatically hand out bags, because they’re unnecessarily wasteful in this situation. But if you want one, then that’s on your conscience. So just ask. It's what you do instead of saying, “Umm, this is to-go, you didn’t give me a bag.” You are the reason that I started buying tiny, handless bags, in the hope that upon receiving said bag, you would feel stupid and stop being such a tool. But it turns out that you’re quite satisfied with those bags. You don’t make any sense. I’m going to start making little handles for your sandwich out of masking tape and make you carry your sandwich like a little, broccoli-filled briefcase.