Ode to the BLT
by Rosie Shugrue
It is the summer after third grade and I am at my grandmother’s house in Chilmark. In bed with sandy feet, I’m deep into my latest buy from Bunch of Grapes Bookstore when the subtle scent of bacon frying drifts into my room. Once the smell is too intense to ignore, I find myself next to my grandmother, Cookie, in front of the stove.
Cookie’s white hair is elegant in a top bun and she wears a PVC apron with a giant Union Jack on it. She expertly flips each strip of bacon and I watch intently as they fry to perfection. The toaster dings and I can see the freshly washed lettuce and sliced tomatoes all laid out on the counter. Together, we assemble BLTs for the whole family, each plate garnished with a healthy handful of Cape Cod Potato Chips.
BLTs have always been a family tradition. We take them very seriously, especially me and my mom. I remember the two of us in upstate New York on my college tour. We stumbled into a nondescript roadside diner and ordered identical sandwiches: a BLT on wheat toast with crispy bacon and extra mayo.
While this might not seem remarkable to anyone else, it felt profound to me. Not only did we share a favorite sandwich, we loved it in the exact same way. Mayonnaise, especially extra mayonnaise, may be controversial to some, but I don’t think a BLT can exist without it. Something euphoric happens when the bacon crunches against the mayonnaise-y toast. The bacon, in a perfect world, should be crispy – almost, but definitely not, burnt. It can be a very delicate process achieving such perfection.
One afternoon in my first apartment, I set the flame too high and haphazardly flip the sizzling slices. I nearly set off the fire alarm, the middle of each piece is crispy and burnt, and yet somehow, the ends remain jiggly and uncooked. My toast sits in the toaster just long enough to become tough and almost inedible. I pick out a not-ripe-enough tomato with an unappetizing greenish hue. The lackluster leaves of Romaine add hardly anything to a meal that becomes a complete disaster.
Today, I am home making lunch for my children. Thankfully, after years of practice and many failures, I feel like I have come closer to mastering the art of the perfect BLT, though my customers now make special requests. After much debate, they end up settling on a B and T and a B, no mayo. I negotiate the process for them, but I still like to channel my grandmother’s deliberateness for myself. From thoughtfully procuring the ingredients, to cooking the bacon to perfection, and finally constructing my BLT to heavenly heights, I derive so much pleasure from every step. I am teleported to my past and reminded of the simple pleasure of enjoying a BLT with your loved ones, with a generous handful of Cape Cod Potato Chips on the side.