Later this month, a book called A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches will reach bookstores. What exactly could be upsetting about sandwiches? Not just upsetting, but super upsetting? You'd be surprised, especially if you're not living inside the mind of Tyler Kord, the author and owner of New York's popular sandwich emporium No. 7 Sub.
This book—with its recipes for It Must Have Been While You Were Missing Meat Loaf, a meatball sub; The Battle of Shanghai, made with General Tso's tofu, spaghetti squash, pickled ginger shiso and mayo; and Gentle Thoughts, made with feta, roasted asparagus and carrot purée—is essentially an invitation to hang out inside the brain of a sandwich savant. And that brain is a pretty damn entertaining place to spend some time. You might even want to make a sandwich for yourself and stay a little while.
Even for die-hard No. 7 Sub fans, there are a lot of new offerings. Kord says about two-thirds of the book is entirely new sandwiches. For instance, there's a breakfast number with broccoli, scrambled eggs and smoked Gouda, and a reimagined Italian sub called the Godfather Part II. There are also heaps of spreads like pho mayo and Old Bay curry sauce.
As you might have guessed, the recipes for the aforementioned creations are anything but traditional. They include instructions like, "Line a plate with paper towels, because you don't want to be caught with your pants down after frying eggplant," and, "I like to use a ring mold to make prettier patties [for a veggie burger], but you probably don't have one of those, and I applaud your rustic sensibility." This is the genius and joy of the book; Kord's humor is quirky and ever present throughout. (A dramatic reading would be an entertaining sight to see.)
Perhaps the most valuable information for those looking to up their sandwich game can be found in the final section entitled "Sandwich Construction: Theory & a Chart." Here, Kord breaks down his desired sando composition. In essence, every winning sandwich should have something: substantial, fatty, acidic, sweet and crunchy—even if those items don't traditionally go with one another. Kord includes a handy chart to help generate ideas for mixing and matching.
When I say to Kord over the phone that the idea of mayo and grape jelly, which he calls Genius Russian Dressing, is upsetting (yes, upsetting!), he points out that it's rich and fatty, with a touch of sweetness and saltiness. Most of us can be small minded about assuming what belongs in a sandwich (or in any dish for that matter). Kord's book will upset those ideas and replace them with something edgier and, frankly, probably tastier.
Kord also tells me this piece of essential culinary literature almost never was. He had been turned down by publishers who instead wanted to publish the No. 7 Sub cookbook, a guide to making the shop's admittedly tasty sandwiches. But, in the words of Kord, "Nobody needs to read that cookbook." When editor and writer Francis Lam joined Clarkson Potter, Kord re-pitched the idea, and it was accepted. The pair, who leave entertaining editor's notes sprinkled throughout the text, like "[Wait, should I be cutting out all of the parts where you either say you're drunk and/or are obviously writing while drunk? —Ed.]," seem to bicker like a loving old couple throughout the editing process.
And just in case this one doesn't end up on the New York Times best-seller list, Kord has a contingency plan stated clearly in the introduction: "If this book is poorly received and you are looking for a roommate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org." As long as he brings the sandwiches, that's not such a bad deal.
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