when i was in elementary school, i forbade my mother to pack sandwiches in my lunch. what was wrong with me?

flawless vegetarian sandwich, i: the scuttlebutt (saltie, williamsburg). hard-boiled egg + feta + black olives + capers + pickles + pimenton aioli. a few years ago, joe was in the neighborhood to help open a new firehouse and snagged a scuttlebutt on the way back to his desk in long island city; when he finally got to eat his lunch, he said, "i had to take a moment." (this food-related awe has since been titled "the cheese pause," after a heart-stopping snack we had on a rooftop in madrid.) we got several scuttlebutts a few months later when my sister and brother-in-law were in town, and one of them seems to have made my sister violently ill; we spent a tense night watching behind the candelabra on our pushed-together sofas, jo getting up every fifteen minutes or so to vomit with gusto and our other sister remarking every now and then on steve. "he's just so good-looking." there's no stopping the scuttlebutt, is my point. we love it still.

flawless vegetarian sandwich, ii: ippudo vegetable buns (ippudo, east village). steamed bun + deep-fried eggplant and eringi mushrooms + spicy sauce + kewpie mayo + iceberg lettuce. do steamed buns count as sandwiches? i say they do, and i feel so strongly about them that "hirata bun" is a term of endearment for my husband and my cats. an ippudo run has followed so many of my half-marathons and 10Ks at this point that i associate climbing stairs and feeling my hamstrings twinge with pillowy, crunchy, spicy little street sandwiches. one of these days i'm going to skip ramen entirely and order three pairs of them as my whole dinner, and i won't be sorry.

flawless vegetarian sandwich, iii: the broccoli classic (no. 7 sub at the ace hotel, midtown west). whole-grain italian hero + roasted broccoli + lychee muchim + feta + fried shallots + mayo. when i stumbled back into our apartment after that overnight relay trail race i camped in new jersey to run, wild-haired, wobbly-kneed and stinking of bonfire, joe asked me what i wanted to eat. A SANDWICH, i said, I NEED A BIG SANDWICH. he called up no. 7's menu on some delivery website and read the options aloud to me; i figured the roasted broccoli was something special, given how improbable it sounded as a sandwich's star, and demanded one. filthy-camping-related hunger is the best sauce, of course, but holy shit was that a good sandwich. the broccoli is crunchy, the brine in the lychee munchin forms a bratty, sour clique with the feta, and the mayonnaise mellows everyone out at the end; i want to learn to make this sandwich myself, but i would have to run twice as hard as i do now if i hoped to continue to fit into my pants. could be worth it.

out-of-town flawless vegetarian sandwich: the cleopatra (gourmands neighborhood pub, austin). this bad boy i can and do re-create on a regular basis, pants be damned; we spent like three days in austin on our road trip last summer and i ate this sandwich at least twice. it's an elegant demonstration of the principle that almost any salad will shine if you stick it between a couple of pieces of quality bread. like so:

toasted seven-grain bread +
mayonnaise +
granulated garlic +
fresh ground pepper +
sea salt +
sliced black olives +
julienned roasted poblanos* +
chopped artichoke hearts** +
bean sprouts +
sliced monterey jack +
sliced avocado +
mandolined persian cucumber +
sea salt +
fresh ground pepper +
granulated garlic +
mayonnaise +
toasted seven-grain bread

it sounds like a pain in the ass, friends, but it will change you.

*(rub with oil, place on a baking sheet, and roast at 425 for 45 minutes, until blackened on all sides; cover until cool, then remove skin and seeds)

**(we like artihearts, available near the fresh mushrooms and herbs at nyc-area whole foods)

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