The Hoboken Sandwich

Yesterday I reviewed some of the best sandwiches in Asheville. But once upon a time, I did a post on what is still my favorite sandwich. A sandwich I’m extremely sentimental about. I’m reposting it here in an effort to collect all of my old blog posts in one place. This piece first ran May 29, 2012.


Prosciutto and mozzarella in a Hoboken bread. Photo by Silby.

Prosciutto and mozzarella in a Hoboken bread. Photo by Silby.

You were probably comatose last week if you didn’t come across Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech. Every website under the sun linked to it.

One part that caught my ear was this bit where Gaiman revealed himself to be—at least to my mind—a sandwicheer:

“We're in a transitional world right now, if you're in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I've talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away. The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds.”

Buying sandwiches, Neil?

His reference reminded me of the late Warren Zevon’s last-ever appearance on David Letterman’s show in 2002. Zevon was dying of cancer when he  suggested that the key to a good life is remembering to enjoy every sandwich. When he died, his friends did a tribute album with that very name.

Sandwicheers are guys who love themselves a good sandwich and figure out ways to work discussion of said sandwiches into commencement speeches and poignant TV appearances.

I know these guys. I had one for a roommate once. And I’d like to think that I’m at least an associate member of their club.

Years ago, when I was living in Hoboken, New Jersey, I wrote an article about my favorite sandwich, which appeared in The New York Times. I was a freelancer for the newspaper back then, writing each week about fun, weird, quaint things to do in New Jersey for the now-defunct New Jersey section of the Times. 

According to the newspaper’s search engine, I probably wrote about 120 articles for the paper during this period of my life. (Unless I wrote 60 and the paper ran 60 letters of complaint.) 

But one of my most personal pieces was this essay about the prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich that is so popular in the delis there in town. My family and I had a long history with that sandwich stretching back to my childhood.

The article begins:

There was a bitter, if forlorn yet stubborn beauty everywhere you looked in Hoboken.'' So wrote Edward Abbey, the naturalist and writer, who lived in the Mile Square City for a single year in the 60's, or maybe the 70's (he was not clear on the point).

A year is not a long time, but he stayed long enough to sing the praises of the town's 25 bars, only two of which—the Clam Broth House and the Cafe Elysian—survive. In one passage, he says Hoboken is ''too sweet, too pure, too romantic'' to be lumped in with the rest of New Jersey. Sometimes I think he has a point.

For me, the town's magic comes wrapped in wax paper.

I’d reprint the essay in its entirety here, but those stories were all work-for-hire and the Times owns the rights. Boo-hoo-hoo.

As God is my witness, I’ll link to them all one of these days.

If you want to read it, though, you can go here.

Thanks to sandwicheer Jack Silbert for providing the photo.

Yes, I am trying to post here more often, and not just about food. Thank you for noticing. If you want to sign up for my newsletter and claim your free ebook, go here.