Please stop putting so much lettuce on your sandwich

I don’t know if it’s because I grew up among immigrant adults or if reading Dante Hell in high school taught me that there’s a whole circle of hell for wasters, but I absolutely dread not finishing a meal. If I come to your house, you serve me dinner, and I don’t finish everything, I’ll literally be thinking about it for the next 24 hours. It doesn’t matter if the cooking was bad – I just can’t stand to leave anything on the plate. I’m still John Candy in “The Great Outdoors” eat every piece of steak, even the cartilage. This is why I find the overuse of greens in sandwiches particularly disturbing. If I wanted a salad with my sandwich, I would have ordered one. Instead, I get a sandwich with a bunch of leaves on it, and I feel compelled to stuff them all in my mouth.

To have the feeling that someone came out and raked everything growing in the garden on my sandwich is one thing; what’s even worse is the truly disturbing amount of tasteless, worthless shredded iceberg. At this point, I’m convinced the iceberg is a weed that covers the planet, and perfectly decent sandwich makers just get a deep discount on it, thinking it’ll add some crunch to the finished product, when everything what it does is make the sandwich moist. or dirty, or usually both. The madness, I say, must stop.

You are probably reading this and thinking that we are in the middle of a pandemic and maybe I should be concerned. To which I say you’re absolutely right – but we’re also in the midst of unprecedented food shortages, with 71% of shoppers worried about going to their local grocery store and finding the shelves nearly empty. It’s about too much lettuce on the club you ordered at the restaurant, but it’s also about food waste. It’s about me and countless other people saying “There’s way too much watercress in this roast beef sandwich” and throwing most of it away. That bit of watercress, romaine, or radicchio you don’t want between the bread adds up and contributes to 30-40% of our food supply that ends up in the trash. It wouldn’t solve the world’s problems if places started using a little less foliage on sandwiches, but every little bit counts.

Ilene Rosen might be the perfect expert to talk to on this subject. She is the co-owner of the famous R&D Foods store in Brooklyn and the James Beard award-winning author of the book “Saladish”. So if anyone understands sandwiches and greens, it’s Rosen.

I have been a customer at R&D since the store opened in 2014. The coffee is excellent. Ilene, co-owner Sara Dima, and the staff are always friendly and welcoming, and that alone keeps me coming back. But I live in an area of ​​Brooklyn where it’s not hard to find good sandwich choices. Everything from humble bodega subs to new school spots like Court Street Grocers and Winner and classics like Defonte’s are a short drive from my apartment. I must really love your place to keep going back, and R&D put me on a regular rotation of one sandwich a week because, quite simply, they’ve thought about every ingredient that’s in between the bread. Nothing seems overdone, and nothing kills a sandwich like overdone. As Rosen says, “Balance and proportion are everything in sandwiches, just like in life.”

Balance East all. And besides the fact that I don’t want too much of anything on a sandwich, I find that nothing bothers me more than too many greens. It soaks up most of the flavor, and the cheese or the meat, the mustard or the mayo, even the other condiments tend to blend into the lettuce or the sprouts or the spinach or whatever. “Throwing lettuce or anything should never be a knee-jerk reaction,” Rosen says. “If I go somewhere to grab a sandwich – and I often do, because sandwiches have become my pandemic obsession (salads have taken a back seat) – and I come across a menu where every sandwich has the same green, I immediately assume I’m in for a bad experience.”

While I understand that sometimes greens are the main attraction of the salad — like the kale salad sandwich I’ve ordered several times from R&D, for example — Rosen says that to make a good sandwich, ” Know the roles each element plays, and the end result sings.” She says knowing the flavor profile of green should be no different than deciding whether to pair a certain type of meat with a specific cheese. “Choose something that makes sense with the combination of the sandwich and use it in the appropriate proportions.”

The perfect situation for all the greens on a sandwich is at a place like Frady’s, the colorful grocery store in the Bywater section of New Orleans that’s always my first stop when I visit. When I get something like roast beef or oyster po’boy, lettuce is a necessary addition. But since I like my sandwich loaded, I tell them, “Not too much lettuce. As I watched them cook my lunch the last time I was at Frady’s, the guy behind the counter asked me if what he put in was a good amount for me. “I just want you to enjoy your sandwich,” he said. I appreciated that.

Obviously, not every sandwich situation will be like Frady’s, and I don’t feel the need to control and obsess over my order like I’m Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally.” I say “Not too much lettuce” to fight against waste. But I am a person and I can only order a limited number of sandwiches. I hope all sandwich makers, professional and amateur, heed Rosen’s words and appreciate that while every ingredient is important, the greens should play a minor role when placed between two slices.