Apr 20 2016
Back in the day, when Farwell and I chased around the Northeast in a quixotic effort to hit the sweet spot in as many snowmelt‑swollen rivers as possible before the water ran out, we often had to eat on the go. It wasn’t unknown for us to grab our lunch “out of hand” while portaging our canoe and gear around an unrunnable drop. And this state of affairs continued during our stones‑and‑bones days, since project schedules invariably dictated early starts and long hours. Extended lunch breaks were not part of the program.
Everyone has his or her own coping strategy for such situations, I suppose. Many of our companions — whether paddlers or trowel‑and‑toothbrush crew — made do with some variation on the pop-and-potato-chip theme, supplemented by an occasional Wonder Bread and bologna sandwich. But while Farwell would have been perfectly happy to join the Dr. Pepper and Cheetos brigade — having come of age humping 70‑pound‑plus loads for days on end, fueled by little more than rice and cabbage, he regarded everything else as haute cuisine — I wanted something better. I wanted a sub.
Subs were in my blood, so to speak. I had come of age assembling them for customers in my parents’ roadside eatery. And they’re ideal make‑ahead, take‑along fare. Subs aren’t just fast fuel. They’re a well‑rounded meal of meat, cheese, and vegetables, sandwiched between two thick slabs of bread. Add a couple of substantial oatmeal cookies and a handful of raisins or dried apricots, plus a thermos of hot tea or coffee, and you’re good to go from dawn to dusk. Best of all, you can make your sub at home the evening before your drive to the put‑in. In fact, you should. Taste, economy, even convenience… Homemade trumps store‑bought every time.
Unless you’re very lucky, that is. And this brings me back to my parent’s restaurant. I’ve libeled it in past columns, referring to it as a “greasy spoon.” I had my tongue in my cheek when I did so, but it was a libel, nonetheless. The spoons were never greasy, and the food was always first‑rate. Our subs were made with fresh‑picked vegetables, beef from nearby farms (the butcher was just down the road), and cheese from Vermont co‑ops that used milk from cows who grazed on lush grass and drank from streams that still ran clear. (Nowadays, this would be labeled “artisan cheese,” but we were simple country folk. It was just cheese to us.) The crowning touch was our sub rolls. We bought them from an Italian baker who’d set up shop in a nearby city better known for its shirt collars and church bells, and the rolls’ secret died with him. I’ve never had better bread anywhere.
You probably won’t have the luck we did when it came to procuring ingredients, of course. (After all, our baker is long dead, as is our butcher, and the cheese in the HyperMart is probably manufactured in a New Jersey plant owned by a hedge fund, with milk from cows that are force‑fed soiled banknotes.) But don’t despair. You can still make a perfectly good sub to bring along on your next day trip.
What about it? Do you want to know the secret of a great sub?… Read more…
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