'mater sammich with Brandywine on Rose 32 potato rosemary bread

After my return to New England, I stumbled across one of the best-tasting foods on the planet, and was astonished that I’d managed to live seventeen years in the South without ever hearing of the Redneck 'Mater Sammich, a longstanding and truly great Southern tradition.

The original, traditional sammich is a fat slice of vine-fresh tomato between two slices of plain, cheap, untoasted, supermarket white sandwich bread, with lots of mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Articles on this abound, for example, here and here. If you haven’t tried this, you must. Some amazing combination brings out exquisite flavors never hinted at by the simple ingredients.

That said, who can resist tinkering and improving? While most improvements fail, since tampering with near-perfection is risky, many experimenters have found variations that suit their own tastes even better.

My own preference centers on the bread. Freely admitting that plain white bread might well exist solely for this purpose, others work well, too. I make my sammiches open-faced, so more tomato, and I like crusty breads, typically but not necessarily whole-grain, either toasted or fresh from the oven. Two favorites: Potato Rosemary Bread and Hardwick Loaf from Rose32 Bakery in Gilbertville, MA. Also quite good are baguettes, torta and ciabatta breads. Disappointing is any bread that’s any more than very slightly sweet, like many bagels.

Don’t be stingy with salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Some basil or lovage doesn’t hurt, either.