Can one breakfast biscuit sandwich change my life?

I have lived in the Deep South for nearly four years. I just had my first Hardee’s sausage and egg biscuit last week thanks to a dear friend’s insistence that I try this.

He was right, and I was due. I must have needed another thing in my life to hanker after because, apparently, I don’t have enough to keep me busy and/or intrigued.

My first impression of the biscuit: buttery, hot, fluffy, crumbly, rich, intense, salty, sweet. The sausage and egg: spicy sausage and smooth egg. Both perfectly done and perfectly perched on the perfect biscuit. It was so hot. And I don’t just mean the temperature. It was Paris Hilton hot.

Why I haven’t been back every morning is beyond me, because it was tasty and satisfying, and frankly, I often don’t eat breakfast because I’m flying out of the house and don’t worry about eating until much later in the day (and then I’m cranky about eating), but I should eat breakfast. Breaking a fast is important. It’s my favorite meal of the day. Bread with meat and eggs. Lovely.

Historically, the bread and meat combo so familiar to us today is attributed to the desire of the Earl of Sandwich (in the mid-18th century) to eat without interruption during a gaming marathon. His cook gave him meat between two slices of bread that allowed him to eat and yet keep up with the game. This may be where we get the word sandwich (via the Earl or his cook–whatever), but such a combo has not been uncommon around the world for ages. Think of all the cultures that use some kind of bread product in conjunction with meat: tortilla, pita, naan… (or without meat, just as you please), and there are so many more than these simple examples. Because I’m a bit focused on British culture, occasionally, I know the British history of the sandwich better than most bread concoctions in other cultures. Besides. Who doesn’t love tea and tea sandwiches–delicate little savories served at some tea times?

The Empress (photo by Bobak Ha'Eri, 2009)

I like tea. I like sandwiches (cucumber sandwiches, even). I have always loved tea time. I even love having a cup of tea at 4 or 5 pm any day, and having a tea meal or desserts: bonus. I suppose I should mention that Victorians have claimed tea time to have been an invention of that period. (Just like Texans claim they invented everything from margaritas to republicanism.)

I partook of my first tea many years ago while staying at The Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia. I am still enchanted by the hotel and the island, and though The Empress is an Edwardian structure, I know they mean Queen Victoria when they talk about the Empress (as you are no doubt aware, she was crowned Empress of India in 1876). It’s always about Victoria, isn’t it? I have wanted to return to that island, just to sit and sip tea and wander around like a Victorian colonist, I mean, tourist… well, like an Edwardian tourist, at least.

When I showed up for tea at The Empress, I was wearing beat to shreds Levi 501 button-fly blue jeans with a seam-to-seam hole just below the left back pocket, a white billowy artist’s shirt over a bright yellow halter top which showed my midriff… and flip flops. I was not allowed in. I was turned away, haughtily, I might add, and was not seated. Could not be seated. I was an affront to the whole thing. High tea, indeed, but not in that get-up.

The Empress at night (photo by PDTillman, 2009)

So I walked the 14,238 miles of corridors back to my room to change into suitable tea gear: a skirt, strappy sandals, and a sweater set. Holy Mother of Pearl–I would have worn a Beefeater’s uniform to get into tea at The Empress. It was magnificent. After my mother reminded me of how to properly drink tea, I was fine and comported myself as any proper young hippie would who was stuffed into proper tea clothes in a proper tea-drinking/tea-eating situation. I was extremely proper. All that lasted about two hours. I may not have been too proper since then, but I did have my big moment at least that once.

I have loved the little sandwich ever since then.

I haven’t loved breakfast sandwiches, though, and very particularly did not like biscuit sandwiches. Biscuits are often too heavy, too bland, too doughy. Sometimes I’ve encountered biscuits that were akin to river rocks and just as useful to a meal. Not the biscuit I ate from Hardee’s. Yum. It was as fun to experience, in its own way, as tea sandwiches at The Empress… a thing of its culture and a beautiful thing it is.

If this is what the Southern biscuit is all about, then I’m all over it. In fact, our home town minor league baseball team is called The Biscuits. I have a whole new respect for this choice of name. (Sadly, the mascot is some kind of bright red weird elephant-like creature–I think it should have been someone in a baseball uniform with a gravy boat head. They did, however, get the logo right, it’s a biscuit head with a tongue made of a butter pat.) I’m a fan now. I think I need to own a Biscuits t-shirt and eat a lot more biscuits (only from Hardee’s–I have loyalty for my foodstuffs).

Since I have been introduced to a new sandwich, I vow to honor sandwiches of all kinds on November 3, National Sandwich Day, in honor of John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (b. 3 Nov 1718, d. 30 April 1792). This year, 3 November falls on a Thursday, the day of week I teach a writing pedagogy class. I think I might have to bring sandwiches and ask students to write about the best sandwich they ever ate, ever (not that I would expect they’d say mine, but my sandwiches are spectacular–I will most certainly write about the first time I included apples in a ham sandwich transporting my friends to sandwich nirvana on one famous and wonderful day in Boise, Idaho in the late 1980s).

I have several favorites I’m considering:

  • Pita with brie, roasted red peppers, with a startling, fresh lemon/garlic dressing
  • Marble rye with ham, Wensleydale, slices of Granny Smith apples, stone ground mustard for brightness
  • Sourdough with roast beef, tomato/banana pepper/olive salsa, thinly sliced red onions, provolone, and a piquant red wine vinegar dressing
  • Crunchy French bread rolls with roasted chicken salad (dried apricots, salty/smoky almonds, green onions, peas, bacon, mayo, refreshing lime zest)
  • Italian bread loaded with thin slices of pepperoni lightly sprinkled with oregano, olive oil, champagne vinegar, salt/pepper, and topped with shredded lettuce

Wouldn’t you love to attend a class where the professor brought those things? Any of those? (Does this count as catering to students?) Just writing about these makes me hungry. I really miss making food. I need to do it again soon. (I think I might write about the watermelon-tomato soup I made a few months ago, especially since the last couple of days have been so warm. It feels like summer soup weather still.)

I ask in the title of this post if one breakfast biscuit sandwich can change my life. The answer is no: but many breakfast biscuit sandwiches could change my life. Many sandwiches have changed my life (see the above list for a start). I love making sandwiches and often don’t because I got lost in another life (sort of like being lost in Austen, or lost in a good novel, or lost in the woods without a bread crumb trail–literally). However, my life in the last 14 months has been dedicated to conjuring up a new way of thinking about work and life and food and friends and writing and… well, thinking.

On 3 November, I will remember all the momentous sandwiches of my life and offer a quiet, dignified sandwichy homage to the 4th Earl in my class for my students, and we’ll talk about basic writing and eat sandwiches and write about sandwiches.

We can do that because writing is about everything, and that’s something that needs to be at the core of every basic writing class. If that’s something I can teach with sandwiches, then I win.


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Filed under Sandwiches, Writing and Gambling, Writing with Heart

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