On the way home from work today I decided to write a series of posts titled How the Future Sucks. These posts will examine the one hundred thousand ways that current life has left us bitter and disappointed, with frustrated expectations. I thought about naming this series Everything you Want, but decided against it after realizing it was influenced by the radio.
Today's entry: The Cuban Sandwich
In Ames last winter while killing an afternoon with Lauren Cerretti I ordered a Cuban sandwich from a waitress in The Café, on the north side of town. This was a ritzier place I went to infrequently, the kind of place where sometimes you have to wait and where there's a separate room for a bakery (but where, still, all sodas come out of cans, mysteriously). I had never heard of Cuban sandwiches but this one came with baked and house-made plantain chips and it seemed impossible to go wrong.
The Cuban came and it was roast pork and un-roast pork and mustard and pickles and a thin layer of black beans pressed between two flattened and once-buttered slices of bread. Damn, it was incredible. So good. The sandwich tight and crisp and the chips salty. The thing more delicious with each bite.
When I decided to move out here to the rest home of America with Sarah I thought, at least there will be delicious Cuban sandwiches. At least if a restaurant in Ames, Iowa can produce such a delicious sandwich, I will be able to find better in a place with a large Cuban population.
Despite my anticipation, Sarah made it to a Cuban first, at some sort of work-related lunch. That night she expressed disappointment. "It was just ham," she said, or something like that. "You have strange taste," I said, or something like that, because she does. She won't eat beans most days and once was sent into a rage by a chili dog. However, I myself picked up a Cuban later that week and was similarly disappointed. I picked up another one at a different restaurant and was just as disappointed.
Was all lost? Was all hopeless? All was, until I went in for a job interview at a donkey show of a school on the north side of this town and found the interviewer out to a long lunch. I tooled around an unfamiliar district and went to an Office Max for ink and paper and then noticed the Cuban Café just down the street. Inside, the place was all newspaper racks and chilled and unfamiliar sodas and a menu written on a white board and a handful of people who spoke kindly and accented English. I ordered a Cuban and sat with a newspaper alone and waited and fantasized the food that would appear and found myself ten minutes later holding a slightly greasy and slightly dry ham sandwich with a few condiments tucked inside.
What the hell, I might have said.
And since then I have avoided Cubans altogether but today I picked one up on the way home when I stopped in the local grocery to pick up tortillas for dinner and soap for our hands and salmon for the future and then ate that sandwich as I drove to the post office. I wasn't expecting much and so was not disappointed but this thing was nowhere near the one I'd eaten at The Café last year. The pickles were crammed to one side and there was no roasted pork and the saddest thing was that even this was better than the Cuban I'd picked up at the Cuban Café here in Florida.
And perhaps the saddester thing is that of the six or so Cubans I've had since arriving here the best I've had was served by a flustered clerk at an overpriced quick-service restaurant at what used to be MGM and is now called something else. There was rain outside and it was eight and we'd slugged down five-fifty beers and maybe that had something to do with the taste but something about that sandwich was better than any others I'd eaten since getting here. It still was nowhere near the meal I picked up in Ames last winter.