My grandfather grew up on a farm in Ohio. He had a pet fox named Düfty ("goofy" in German) and a knack for nefarious activity. The sheriff of Medina deemed him "incorrigible" and all but ran him out of town like sheriffs did back in those days. When his high school principal handed him an empty leather binder instead of a diploma at graduation, he caught a bus to Cleveland to enlist in the Navy. He's been everywhere, eaten everywhere, and can effortlessly spin tall tales. Whenever Papa Dale comes to dinner, it's like dinner and a movie. Except instead of a movie, there's a string of sea stories. Before the show starts he makes his plate, sits down — taking his time to give his dish a longing look — and with an exaggerated inhale he turns to me and says with a sly grin, "Hey Linds, wonder what the poor people are eatin'?" This is essentially like saying grace and the meal can begin. This tradition brings me unlimited joy because we aren't rich, and he will say it even when we are at an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at Pizza Hut. I catch myself saying "grace" at the most ironic times.
The diet of a server is bizarre (read: unhealthy) and I've been ringing in orders for over a decade now. There's usually no breakfast, one half-eaten serving of family meal, and, in my experience, copious amounts of sandwiches in between. Every time I smash a slab of cold macaroni and cheese with a silly amount of hot sauce between two pieces of bread at 2 a.m., I think "Wonder what the poor people are eatin'?" Where would I be without the sandwich?
- Jonathan Boncek
- Burrata and tomato sandwich
I have two boys under the age of four who are (wouldn't you know it) light sleepers. When I walk in the door after my shift, it's like one of those game shows where people have to complete ridiculous obstacle courses against the clock. But there's no clock. Instead, it's all about silence. The challenge? Make something edible without being seen or heard. I immediately survey the scene, I can use the light over the stove, but it's probably better to just leave the refrigerator door open. The warm glow it casts really sets the stage for a late-night caper and once the mood is just right the challenge can begin. I slip my shoes off and creep like a ninja towards the condiment shelves. Locating the ingredients is the hardest part. The condiments are always disorganized. Is that relish or cornichons? The jars are the same size with the same green lid. One wrong choice and you risk having to pick up a different jar. The jars clink together like chimes of death and the next thing you know you've got a two-foot tall cherub asking you for a glass of milk and a diaper change. Just grab it! It's got to be cornichons or else we are about to change the rules on what goes with a classic ham and gruyere. Pots and pans? Never. Too noisy. If you're desperate for a grilled cheese you're going to have to lower your expectations a little and settle for cheese toast broiled open-face in the oven. And I've gotten pretty good at it. I've acquired the muscle-memory to calculate the exact amount of pressure required to open the silverware drawer without making the dreaded squeal that will instantly disqualify you. Misè en place in order, tools gathered, the light glowing, I'm ready to build the sandwich. The key now is to have the sandwich stacked and sliced before the refrigerator alarm starts going off. Curse you, new appliances. The old-school icebox didn't sound a shrill beep if you left the door open. It's exciting and nerve-wracking and produces some instant classics and some horrifying disappointments. I logged a weeks' worth of late night creations. If you've ever wondered what the poor people are eating ... take a look.
Whole wheat, questionably-dated Cajun roast beef, pepper-jack cheese, Doux South Creole Mustard, Duke's Mayo, Maldon salt, pickled jalapeño, Broiled till bubbly
Review: Surprisingly savory and satisfying with just the right amount of heat... if you're willing to roll the dice on botulism
- Jonathan Boncek
- Calabrese salami roll-up
Calabrese salami, Trader Joe's salsa (chunky), white cheddar, tortilla, sour cream.
Review: This one obviously was a devastating fail. Don't do it.
Sliced heirloom tomato, burrata, basil, EVOO, cracked black pepper, sherry vinegar, leftover sourdough from FIG
Review: This classic Caprese on toast never disappoints and the luxurious texture of burrata really ramps up the class factor. Pro-tip: rub the toast with raw garlic after it comes out of the oven for an added layer of flavor.
Seeded rye, peanut butter, blackberry jam
Review: I was hesitant about the seeded rye but it actually made me feel like less of a kindergartener.
Chopped cold-roasted chicken (skin on), Duke's Mayo, white bread, hot sauce, Maldon salt
Review: no explanation required