A whitetail deer browses (grazes) at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, also a World Heritage Site, near Collinsville, Ill. Come to Cahokia Mounds next Saturday, Oct. 4, for the 3rd Annual City of the Sun 5K Trail Run/Walk. You might see a few deer along the trail, and I might need you to kick me across the finish line. (I'm gettin' old.) Register at www.racesonline.com
Stack some good grub on top of a slice of bread and top it off with another slice of bread. Now, pick it up with your hands and chow down. What a concept! And delicious!
Hold on there. Hang on a second. That's a sandwich. Sandwiches have been around since the 1st century B.C., according to a few histories of the sandwich that I've recently read. Nonetheless, it's still a brilliant concept, and I love a good sandwich.
By the way, I always thought the Earl of Sandwich was the guy who invented putting tasty stuff between a couple of pieces of bread. Apparently, it was a Jerusalem rabbi known as Hillel the Elder who built those first sandwiches, during the rule of King Herod. I don't know if the king was a sandwich fan, but I know I am. Since I'm not writing about the history of sandwiches, however, it does not matter. I'm simply trying to grab your attention, so I can tout to you the wonderfulness of the sandwich.
I didn't just now know fall off the sandwich tray, you know, or as Al Pacino as Lt. Col. Frank Slade once said, "I been around, you know?" I have been consuming delicious sandwiches in many places for many years, beginning with my very own sandwich creation when I was a youngster.
That first original Griggswich was constructed between two slices of Wonder bread. It featured a generous layer each of mayonnaise, peanut butter, pickles and potato chips. That fantastic formula sent me into a sandwich wonderland, a delectable place only a squirt-sized, Wonder-bread boy could appreciate.
Today, if I had to pick my top three sandwiches, I'd keep it simple:
1. Bacon, lettuce and tomato on toast with lots of mayo
2. Salami and provolone on baguette with lots of mayo
3. Grilled cheese with lots of cheese, but hold the mayo
I was tempted to include the glorious cheeseburger on the above list. After all, it is mouthwatering ground beef and cheese between two bun halves. But hamburgers and cheeseburgers are in a realm all their own. Respect the burger. Hail, oh mighty burger.
Plenty of creations and choices remain in the righteous realm of sandwiches. Reubens, Dagwoods, torpedoes, subs, po' boys, hoagies, heroes, triple-deckers and club sandwiches await us at delis, luncheonettes, bistros, cafes and fast-food joints everywhere. Only in the world of sandwiches, probably, does it not matter if your likes and ideals differ from those of others. That conservative Republican over there is chowing down on a roast beef and cheddar on a kaiser roll, just like you are, you liberal Democrat you. And look at your fellow leftwing wacko over there munching down that awful pastrami and swiss on rye with spicy mustard oozing all over her hands! Our conflicting tastes, though, do not matter, because we're all happy, enjoying our scrumptious sandwiches together, eating and living for the moment in utter harmony, in sandwich bliss.
I can easily remember the good times I had living in or visiting other places simply by remembering my favorite sandwiches in those countries or cities. Just think about it. I can think about it easily. Ah, yes, I recall the fantastic croque monsieurs I enjoyed at cafes in Paris. How can I forget the savory shrimp po' boys in old New Orleans? And if you think the Vietnamese don't know how to build a sandwich, you've never tried a luscious banh mi.
Perhaps our leaders could help the cause of world peace by sharing sandwiches. For example, picture President Obama meeting with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.
"Thank you, Hassan, for inviting me to Tehran. Here, I have brought you a heavenly corned beef sandwich from Manny's Coffee Shop and Deli on South Jefferson in Chicago. Peace be with you, my friend."
"You are so welcome, Barack, and thank you for such a delightful and tasty token of peace and harmony. Here, from me now, is this exquisite boccalone sandwich from right here in Tehran. Enjoy. May you and I and our countries live in peace for ever more."
So, you can see how meaningful and peace-loving sandwiches can be – not to mention how yummy and gratifying.
Time for a sandwich. Please cut me two slices of that Italian loaf. And pass me the Genoa and the provolone. Oh, yeah, and the MAYONNAISE!
(Anne gets tired of me saying "mayonnaise" like Louis Gossett Jr. as Gunnery Sgt. Foley says it to Richard Gere's character Zack Mayo in "An Officer and a Gentleman." I can't help it. MAYONNAISE!)
The sight of a beautiful buckeye butterfly making its rounds through a field of sunflowers is a sight to cherish. This beauty was stopping atop the sunflowers all around me this past Tuesday at a farm just west of Carlyle, Ill. I also got plenty of close-up views of bumble bees, honey bees, cucumber beetles and a majestic butterfly called painted lady. Many critters drink the flowers' nectar and then inadvertently but beneficially distribute the flowers' pollen. While you might think of sunflowers as the giants that provide us sunflower seeds to snack on, Illinois prairies and farmlands host a number of native sunflowers that neither grow so large nor produce those big seeds, the shells of which we see constantly being spat from the mouths of big-league baseball players. Midwest sunflowers include the ashy sunflower, prairie sunflower, western sunflower and sawtooth sunflower, and they all look similar. We can also throw in the tall Maximilian sunflower – that one can grow to nine feet – and another tall sunflower called the Jerusalem artichoke. The common sunflower is a native version of the big cultivated sunflower, but only half the size in height.
Rocks create a small band of rapids in the Kaskaskia River along the east edge of Carlyle, Ill., about a quarter-mile below Carlyle Lake. The Kaskaskia flows for 325 miles through central and southern Illinois until it empties into the Mississippi. My grandfather and I fished the Kaskaskia when I was a boy, but if Grandpa was alive today, he'd be disappointed to see how invasive Asian carp have moved into our old fishin' waters. Long before the arrival of the Asian carp, my grandfather and I caught plenty of channel catfish and drum. I witnessed my first flathead catfish, when Grandpa pulled a whopper flathead out of the Kaskaskia near Okawville. Now, when I walk along the river, I can picture my grandfather baiting his hook with a large shrimp or small sunfish in hopes of tempting a monster flathead.
T.E. Griggs is a writer, editor and photographer and a retired U.S. Marine.