The Signature Sandwich

I recently learned that a friend (a retired newspaper editor) has a sandwich named for him. His signature sandwich has been on the menu at the grill, a couple blocks from the newspaper office, for over twenty years. One day he asked if pork tenderloin could be substituted for chicken in the Santa Fe sandwich. The owner said yes, and the rest is history.

Of course, I stole the idea and wrote a romance short story targeted for Woman’s World magazine. It may or may not sell, but a couple months will pass before I know about that.

In my story, a woman wanders into a town just 30 miles from her home. It is early for lunch, but she’s famished. She peruses the new menu and decides on the Will Hamilton, a hamburger with chopped up condiments of dill pickle, tomato, lettuce, and onion stirred together with mustard. As soon as she orders, the teen waiter pulls out his cell, calls someone and says, “We got one,” and moments later Will Hamilton, the editor of the weekly paper from the next door office, bursts into the diner. She was the first to order his signature sandwich. You can figure out the rest—it is a romance.

As I wrote the story, I needed a sandwich of a different sort not normally found on a menu. Aunt Punch’s hamburgers popped right into my mind.

Aunt Punch raised her own cattle on 38 Arkansas acres with a creek, so the hamburger was the best quality. No fillers. I can’t describe the flavor, but it was like the best hamburger you’ve ever tasted times 100. Aunt Punch plopped fairly round hamburgers into a hot cast iron skillet; they sizzled while she shook salt and pepper over them. With a flat tin lid missing the handle, she covered the skillet to keep grease from popping on the gas range.

While the burgers cooked, she finely chopped lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles and dressed the concoction with mustard.

She flipped the burgers, and after a moment topped the burgers with buns, slapped the tin lid back on for another minute for the buns to steam through, and then took up the delicious burgers. The proportion between hamburger and warm bun was perfection. Add Aunt Punch’s concoction, and there was nothing better in this world. She served the burgers on old chipped flowery plates. She had six of them, and today they rest in my kitchen cabinet. I only use them when I serve burgers.

(I was so used to eating burgers with the chopped toppings that it led to one of my early embarrassing moments, as compared to my many later ones. I was having supper with a junior high friend’s family, and the meal was hamburgers and salad. Naturally, when the salad was passed around I put it on my burger. The mom commented that she’d never seen that done. I had noticed the veggies were not chopped fine, and there weren’t any pickles or mustard, and there may have been an odd carrot tossed in. With a red face, I scraped the salad off my burger.)

If some café proprietor should ever want to name a sandwich after me, it would have to be Aunt Punch’s Hamburger. Then the name wouldn’t be mine, but there’s no helping that. It’s the only name that fits.


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