On packages of the nonsense they sell as food in grocery stores (rice cakes, ranch dressing, Count Chocula), they often use the term "serving suggestion." For food conglomerates, it's a legal disclaimer. For me, it's that I don't consider writing about a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich to be a recipe. I don't really consider this cooking. I'm not talking about measured amounts of anything-- and if you can't figure out how to make a sandwich at the same age you should be able to read this sentence, I can't help you.
Writers who are more hip than I (read: nearly all of them) might speak of "curating" ingredients. I kinda hate that word being used unless you work for an art gallery or a museum...and we're talking about a sandwich, for crying out loud. But, the BLT is nearly worthy of that kind of particularity, if not in the ingredients list, at least in the how and where they assemble-- a kind of feng shui of pork fat, summer heat, and vegetable garden excess. It's a very specific experience.
It's best for supper, not lunch. It's a kitchen sandwich. I've never had a good BLT at a restaurant. Never. Better places will destroy a BLT with "improvements" like pepper bacon and arugula and herbal mayonnaises. Chain restaurants always have weirdly dry and tasteless tomatoes, the harried teen boy in the back kitchen won't toast the bread precisely the way you like it, and they'll be stingy with the bacon. Nope, nope, nope. Kitchen is best. So much so, it's part of my serving suggestion.
For one BLT sandwich, you need six things:
For one BLT sandwich, you need six things:
1. Your own kitchen. Ideally, you've come in from a few hours of yard work, you've got dirt on your bare feet, and you're not really sure what to have for supper. But you have a shit-ton of tomatoes from the garden sitting on your counter you don't know what else to do with, and you're too tired for anything more ambitious. If there are other people involved, they are the ones who have seen you every damned summer Saturday in your paint-stained Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and still love you anyway (but wish you would go take a shower, like, right now). You know that the knife that slices the tomatoes best is in that drawer over there. The skillet that fries the bacon just the right shade of crispy is within reach. You don't have to wash your feet or comb your hair or find the car keys to get this sandwich.
2. You could say about bacon what is often said about pizza and sex; even when it isn't that good, it isn't bad. Trying to be fancy about bacon is ironic. It's a blue collar food; it's got a job to do and it is going to do it as the earthy base layer of the sandwich. I've used store brands. I've used the good stuff you can get at a decent butcher counter. I like the thick cuts for crisp/chewy bacon, but can appreciate the position of people who prefer thin and crunchy. Either way, the whole point of bacon is the smoke, fat, and salt.
3. Iceberg lettuce. I know. I once denigrated iceberg lettuce as the salad of my grandmothers, but what was I thinking? Grandmas are smarter than we are; that's how they get to be grandmas. Iceberg lettuce has its place and it is as the capital L in the BLT. Its layers of cold, sweet, and crunchy are the yin to the bacon's yang. You can't really be fancy about iceberg. You can't grow it either, and you shouldn't have to-- grocery stores on Mars have iceberg lettuce. And unlike the sissy baby boutique greens that we grandchildren have wasted our hipster spending money on, iceberg lettuce will last forever in the bottom of your produce drawer. Or at least until the next time you make BLTs, which will be soon with as many tomatoes as you have to get through.
4. Tomatoes. I think of the BLT as the Sandwich of August, because that's when I have tomatoes from my own garden. I put a lot of thought and planning into growing my tomatoes, starting seed indoors in February, just so that I can have this particular sandwich in this particular month. Look at that bad boy:
This one weighed over a pound, and a single slice made a whole sandwich. There are, in any given August, about eleventy-billion of these things growing right outside my back door. There are few better ways to which they could be put when they are this perfect. And by perfect I mean that the juice from the tomato will soak your bread, run down your wrists, and require multiple napkins.
5. Mayonnaise. The mayo isn't part of the acronym, but it should be. BLTM. I have my strongest opinions about the mayonnaise. First of all: obviously pro-mayo. If you live east of the Rockies, it's Hellman's; if you live west, it's Best Foods. If you live south, I'll let you folks have your Duke's. It's a fine mayo and we've got bigger things as a country to argue about. Kraft people, you're excused from the conversation. And Miracle Whip people? Satan get behind me. As for getting it on the sandwich-- load up. This is no time for halfway measures.
6. Toast. As a snob in general about bread, you would think that I would be a snob about it when it comes to BLTs. But really it's just a vehicle for getting the BLT (and M) combination from plate to face. Honestly, almost anything will do as long as it's toasted and not too weirdly flavored. I've used hamburger buns when out of sliced bread. I've had a pretty darn good BLT in a pita pocket. I like multigrain bread best, but my husband likes white. You can be fancy about the bread in a way that you really can't be about bacon, but the truth of the matter is that no matter how awesome the bread, the bacon grease and the messy tomato and the Grandma lettuce and the kitchen table and your Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt will drag this right back down to the proletariat. And that's okay. Better than okay, because you have a BLT sandwich.