Mort Laitner
Mort Laitner

My Dagwood Sandwich Summer – An Unkosher Story

Dagwood sandwich Open Clip Art Library, which released it explicitly into the public domain

“So my little pisher, do you want to hear another spiel about seltzer or do you want to learn how to make a great sandwich?”

“Mort, how about both?”

“Okay, ya got both.”

After removing the silver cap from the bottle, I stood in front of my white LG refrigerator, pressing down on front door’s water valve and listening to the pishing sound as cold, clear, filtered water filled my SodaStream bottle. (A sound, you guessed it, that makes old men think about taking a leak.)

In an easy cadence, I counted to 80, knowing that at around 80 seconds the water reached the level of the thin black line imprinted on the clear plastic bottle.

Carrying the bottle to my SodaStream machine, I pushed back on the lever, inserted the bottle and tightly twisted.

Then I pressed twice the center black button found on the top of the machine. This button with the pictures of air bubbles printed on it. I heard and watched the fizzing of compressed CO2 gas being shot into the cold water.

Within seconds, I had created seltzer.

Unscrewing the bottle, a whoosh of excess carbon dioxide escaped into the air. (I wondered any long-term repercussions to the environment.)

I lifted the bottle to my lips, took a long swig of the soda water and felt the effervescence run down my throat.

Life was good.

Closing my eyes, I flashed back to the summer of my sixteenth year; to my early addiction to club soda.

A year when my summer nights were filled with trying to pick up girls, watching the Tonight Show, eating Dagwood sandwiches and washing them down with egg creams.

You remember Dagwood Bumstead from the Blondie comic strip?

You remember his shapely wife, the eponymous Blondie?

You remember the size of the sandwiches he whipped up and the size of his wife’s breasts, waist and derriere?

Well, I confess. I was a Dagwood copycat.

And in the summer of  ’66, I followed his sandwich-making ritual; thanked G-d, for my overactive metabolic rate.

But boychick, before I start with the list, I want you to pay particular attention to this recipe. It’s not a bissel-of-this-and-a-bissel-of-that recipe. It’s a flavors-by-proportion recipe. It’s a culinary work of art—framed in two dark slices of rye.”

So if I had not found female companionship—my Blondie—by 11:00 pm, which was most nights, I sublimated of my sex drive with food. (Who knew?) and I retreated to my kitchen, opened my GE refrigerator and pulled out the following

Levy’s real Jewish rye pumpernickel, I’d pull the two largest slices from the middle of the loaf. I touched the slices for freshness;

Hellman’s mayonnaise (which I schmeared on thick);

Ba-Tampte mustard , yup, “Ba-Tampte means tasty.” Look for the lit menorah on the label of this kosher delicatessen-style mustard;

Two slices of imported Swiss cheese;

Three thick slices of Genoa salami;

Two slices of turkey or roast beef or both;

Eight thin slices of Vlasic kosher dill pickles (With all these kosher products in my sandwich, who says I ain’t a  good Jew?);

Two slices of Boar’s Head ham (Okay, in the eyes of the religious and maybe in the eyes of the Lord, I’m not.);

A shtickle or two of onion and tomato;

And as a crowning touch, you top off the Dagwood with an olive skewered on a long toothpick;

Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup (“A Brooklyn original—Same great taste since 1900”);

Whole milk;

A blue glass bottle of seltzer.

Within six minutes, my Dagwood sandwich and my egg cream came to life.

But before resting, I turned on the TV, twisted the dial till I found Carson. Waited for Johnny’s sidekick Ed McMahon to exclaim, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!!!”

Then I listened to maestro, Skitch Henderson and the NBC orchestra play Carson’s intro music in the background.

“Ya know boubileh, in the early Seventies, I actually met Johnny Carson.

“No way.”

“It’s true.  After his show, in his dressing room at the Concord. He was on the top of his game. But a real kind gentleman.”

I handed him a ballpoint pen and a snippet of cardboard. Then I asked, “Mr. Carson, can I please get your autograph?”

“Of course,” he gently replied.

Johnny signed his name on a small piece of brown cardboard that I had torn from something in that dressing room.

“Ya know, today, more than 55 years later, I still possess that small fragment of paper—as a treasure of my youth.”

Now back to my youthful adventures in my kitchen.

With my legs propped up on the Formica counter next to the TV, I started to try to wrap my mouth around the Dagwood.

I inhaled the flavors.

My taste buds ran as wild as the horses at the Olympic Riding Academy.

With my mouth full, I laughed at Johnny’s jokes and as the monologue ended I remembered watching Johnny take his phantom golf swing.

And within 10 minutes, using both hands to hold my mega sandwich, I devoured it.

I loved how every layer added its own texture and taste.

I gulped the last sip of my egg cream. All the while realizing, “My life was blessed.”.

“Mort, I can’t find a message in  your totally unkosher story?”

“Well, my bubeleh, life is like a Dagwood sandwich, with all its complexities: the selection process, the layering, the binding, the crowning, the finding of the right ingredients and most importantly, the taking of  the time to enjoy your creation.”

The pisher pursed his lips, bobbed his head in thought and said, “Well, thanks Mort. That’s a life lesson if I ever heard one.”

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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