Me and Subway, we go way back. It’s been a long and complicated relationship.
My first couple years of high school, it was my hang-out. After school and/or practice, my friends (and later, ZOMG MY BOYFRIEND) and I would wander up to the Subway a few blocks from school and camp out in a sticky yellow booth, munching on potato chips and sipping soda, until our respective parents arrived in minivans to claim us.
Every. Single. Day.
It was a little strange, but I guess it kept us (mostly) out of trouble!
The Subway obsession of my early teens culminated with a trip I took to San Francisco with my friend Greta and her family in tenth grade. Instead of taking pictures of, like, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Full House House, we made a pact to visit every single Subway in the city – and decided that I would take a photo of her there. Usually with the trash can.
We were weird kids. From the same trip:
(We spent an entire evening painting our stomachs with make-up and taking pictures of it. Weird, I tell ya. Also, these two photos were apparently awesome and special enough that they needed to be cut in to neat shapes. Also, I can’t believe I actually found them in my piles of old photos. Also, Greta is probably going to kill me for posting this.)
Anyway, once we all turned sixteen and attained vehicular mobility, we stopped hanging out at Subway. (In favor of hanging out at Denny’s, duh.) And with that, my consumption of mediocre turkey sandwiches declined to that of a more casual consumer.
Until I was 25.
When I was 25, I started a new job in a new city. In an office across the street from a Subway. The other local options included a strip club, a filthy bar that had a “U Catch Em & We’ll Cook Em!” live-lobster claw-game machine in the corner, and a crappy deli that charged you ten bucks for a slice of cheese and some Wonderbread. Guess what I ate for lunch nearly every single day for the four-plus years that I worked there?
EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
I had personal relationships with all of the employees of that Subway. We were like old friends. Old, bitter friends who got upset with one another when the meat was placed flat on the bread instead of folded in half. (It’s supposed to be folded! It was a big day for me when I finally stood up to the offending “sandwich artist” about her sub-par technique.)
I miss many things about my old job: my co-workers, my cute little office…um, the paycheck. But daily trips to “THE WAY?” Those I do not miss one bit.
So it was really weird for me when, around 10 AM today, I suddenly felt an urge to smell that fake-bread-baking smell. A desire for some flavorless meat and waxy cheese. A veritable hankering for a bland roll which will always be bland and crumbly, no matter how much mustard you assault it with.
I was totally craving Subway. So very strange.
Now, I’m not going to turn this in to a conversation about Subway and whether it’s really any healthier than McDonald’s. Or about whether Jared’s insides might be rotting from continual exposure to nitrite-filled meat and HCFS-filled bread and whatever else is probably in those innocuous six-inch sandwiches. Not because those aren’t valid topics of discussion, but because there is simply no need to go there.
Because, taste-wise, Subway sandwiches just suck.
Really, they’re an insult to sandwiches everywhere. Three measly pieces of meat? Iceberg lettuce? That god-awful dry bread? Ugh. I could make a better sandwich in my sleep.
But anyway, I was craving it, and while the craving was strong, I was not about to up and leave my warm apartment just to go buy a mediocre sandwich. So I made myself a nice bowl of peanut butter noodles for lunch, which is usually one of my favorite foods.
Today, however, they were just okay.
The afternoon wore on. I digested, did some work, went out for a nice 10-mile run in the rain. The whole time, I could not get that damn crappy sandwich off of my mind.
Finally, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of. I went on twitter and complained until a bunch of people told me to shut the hell up and just go get some damn Subway already.
So that’s what I did.
And I ordered the “old standard” – turkey on wheat, lettuce, mustard, light mayo, vinegar, salt + pepper. Fake-o-rama baked chips. A Diet Coke with a splash each of Mr. Pibb and Orange Soda.
With a bag of free cookies on the side. One of the perks of visiting your local Subway at closing time, I guess!
(Cookies that were probably fresh sometime around noon. O HAI IRONIC BAG.)
So, was it good?
You know what? It was. I mean, it was crappy, but it tasted exactly like it was supposed to taste and that was comforting. Or something.
So, what the hell is the moral of the story here?
There isn’t one. Except that sometimes crappy food tastes good.
And that sometimes smells and tastes can take you back to a time in your life that was simpler and more fun. A time when it was okay to laugh hysterically with your best friend after painting your stomach in a hotel bathroom. A time when your days were ruled by bells and homework and your cross-country practice schedule.
(Or, I suppose, days when you actually had a paycheck and health insurance, even if it meant slaving away in an office for 60 hours a week and eating Subway every day.)
I guess that’s why they call it comfort food, eh?