On craving crap – or, the Subway story

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?


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?


38 responses to “On craving crap – or, the Subway story

  1. Haha! I love the old photos. my BFF and I had a similar pact of silliness but it was Denney’s. Barf.

    Um I kinda like Subway. It’s my go-to-not too bad for me “fast food” option. Sometimes I do crave it. I like the Spicy Italian (the worst option there).

  2. Did you know that there is a 73% chance that the turkey you ate on your Subway sandwich tonight was grown in the town where I live?! That’s right! Most of Subway’s turkey meat is raised here in my corner of Iowa by a group of farmers. I actually visited one of their farms the other week and was pleasantly surprised with the way they raise and process their meat.

    I do crave Subway too…I am a veggie sub kind of gal, extra jalapenos of course.

  3. I used to eat Taco Bell. I cannot believe I’m admitting it, but every once in awhile I still want a bean burrito. And then I remember that I live in Texas and go get some real Tex-Mex!

    Also, I used to eat Subway all the time! What is wrong with us? I blame the smell.

  4. I don’t exactly know what Subway tastes like (I think I had it once at a soccer tournament like 10 yaers ago), but I’ll tell you what…

    IT SMELLS AMAZING. I always assumed it was insanely good because it. smells. soo. good.

    I’m a brown-bagger for work, 100%. Every day. Gotta pay off those loans…

  5. Very classic vintage photos. 🙂 Your Subway craving reminds me of my trip to McDonalds several months ago to get McNuggets. I hadn’t had them in years and they aren’t really even good, but I just needed to have them. They tasted ok, just like they were supposed to. Ah comfort food…

  6. Oh subway… you’re right. The bread is amazingly dry. The meat suspect. Wilted lettuce… fresh veggies from a can…
    Yet it’s often a stop for me on the roadtrip to go back and visit my hometown.
    Sort of like late night McDonald’s or Domino’s. Sure- there are way better options. Even when I’m drunk I know that. But I do it anyways…
    Damn traditions.

  7. i love this post. you capture those ridiculous giggly teenage girl moments so well… when painting your stomach seems like an awesome idea, whereas now it seems kinda retarded. thank you for this. (yes, i’m a politically incorrect social worker and i use ‘retarded’ as an adjective. deal.)

    when i was in high school, i ate essentially the same things for lunch with my friends: large burger king fries with mozzarella sticks and a soda, pizza, and a pumpernickel bagel with butter when mom and dad’s lunch money was running low. not really craving any of those things right now except for the new york pizza, but that ain’t so special when you can get it any day, anywhere. might need a pump bagel in the near future, though. with extra butter.

    • I ate SO many bagels in high school! Sometimes for lunch I’d have two bagels. (That’s it; 100% pure carbs, maybe with a little cream cheese.) And somehow I was fitter and faster back then…hmm!

  8. I haven’t eaten McDonald’s in almost 2 years. After going raw for 30 days earlier this year I also told myself that I had no need going back to Subway again either (for the very same reasons you outlined) Yet…in the past 2 weeks I’ve been to *the Way* FOUR effing times. (Veggie delight w pj cheese on flat bread…all veggies, s &p, chipolte sauce, sunchips, diet coke with a splash of cherry coke at the top) You’re totally right though…it’s not the classiness of their sandwiches…it’s totally the comfort factor!

  9. Subway is one of the few places I will not eat. Not because I’m above it by any means, but because EVERY SANDWICH TASTES THE SAME. They all have that generic Subway taste. Meatball? Turkey? Ham? All taste like the bread. Not a bad thing – just not my thing!

  10. I love Subway! The bread is always freash and if you go on the right day the chicke almost tastes unprocessed. I ate it several times a week for years!!!


    i wish i’d had friends in high school to go to san fran with…damn. my pictures aren’t that fun.

  12. Going around and taking absurd photographs in chain restaurants is one of the things I would have loved doing in high school, but never had the fortitude to follow through with. One time a friend and I did discover a huge inflatable soccer ball, which we drove around town, snapping photos of, before depositing it on my English teacher’s front stoop. Nothing to do with Subway, but plenty to do with being giggly.

    I actually had a similar experience with crappy-nostalgia food recently. In high school, I ate a can of “Fiesta Soup” almost every day after school as a snack. Then, somewhere around 2001, Fiesta Soup (by Campbell’s) disappeared. I searched hither and thither for it, before giving up, but then a few weeks ago discovered a “Light” Southwest-style soup that looked eerily familiar. So I bought it, and it was the same…but they had fuckin’ lightened it up, meaning they had taken out the corn and the beans and made the broth really lame. Disappointing.

    • I am sure there is something to be said about the full-circle-ness of you passing the ball on to your English teacher, but it’s too early for me to think coherently.

  13. I lived on turkey sandwiches (many from Subway) when I was in college. Once I ate a turkey sandwich for every meal for an entire week. DH (back when he was DBF) and I used to go and get buy one get one free 6-inch subs for dinner all the time. No chips. No drinks. That’s not what the coupon was for. Just the sub. No wonder we were skinnier back then… I can’t imagine eating just a 6-inch turkey sub for dinner now. But yeah… that Subway smell takes me back.

  14. I love that you cut those pictures into weird shapes. That whole story is so funny.

    I haven’t been to subway in a long time, but there is something about the smell that I really like. I know that’s not what really fresh baked bread smells like…but it’s what theirs smells like, and yeah, that’s comforting (or something).

  15. That’s hilarious that you guys took all those Subway pics in SF…sounds like something my friends and I would have done back in HS. The big “after school hangout” at my high school when we couldn’t drive was McDonald’s or Dairy Queen. Ughhhhh. I remember eating Filet ‘o’ Fish sandwiches before track meets. How I managed to not spew across the finish line is a mystery to me…. Once we could drive, Subway became the hangout because it was farther away. I once had a job near a Subway as well and would eat there quite often, though not as much as you! I remember my boss was like, “Ewwww, how can you eat there?” and I seriously didn’t see why there was anything wrong with it at the time. Now, though, I can’t even remember the last time I ate it. I think we all go through our food phases! Oh and even though those cookies were old…they still looked sort of good. You just gave me a Subway cookie craving! 😉

  16. Seeing Greta in your post really made my day today. Also, it made me rethink my planned lunch at Subway, which is the best food this damn town has to offer (although we do have a Denny’s).

  17. What an unruly teenager. I’m sure you kept your parents up late every night with worry. (Hehe, our after practice hang-out was the stereotypical NJ diner.)

    Love the pictures. Good times in the 90’s.

  18. We always hung out at Walmart when we were in HS. The Walmart parking lot was the place to meet up. If we were bored we’d drive through, see whose car was there and most likely head inside. We terrorized the store.

    I now highly dislike Walmart and only go into it if I have no other choice! I’m also not a fan of Subway…I think I ate it too often during track and CC when the bus was driving to/from meets!

  19. Haha I get random cravings for subway sometimes. I like the honey mustard.

  20. lolz, i loved this post. in some ways, i think all high schoolers have similar experiences. my friends and i used to eat at Wendy’s every.single.day in high school. my go-to was a jr. bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a small frosty. i ran about 1/2 the miles i do now and was still in pretty decent racing shape.

    youth is wasted on the youth!

  21. hah! When I was in high school, we skipped class to go to Pizza Hut simply because we had (crappy) cars and could drive there. We nicknamed our regular waitress too. Yep, weird.

    I absolutely hate that fake bread smell of subway and sometimes cross the streeet to get away from it!

  22. My highschool hangout was a diner, and I’d kill to eat there again; they knocked it down and turned it into a bank branch!

    As far as subway goes, I somehow managed to avoid it until full adulthood, when it became the default lunch location for my best friend and coworker, Brian. Brian and I ate at Subway every day over a 2 or 3 year period, and eventually got on such good terms with a couple of the employees that we were getting a discount that made it cheaper than a bag lunch. Now I blanch not just at the crummy quality, but at the terrible burden of paying full price!

  23. I eat a lot of Subway when I travel for work. When you’re stuck in Bumfuck, Arkansas…it’s Subway, Taco Bell, or BK usually. Not good.

  24. Oh! Subway! I get the occasional Subway craving (for which my coworkers give me shit), and I just…give in. I kind of like the fakey-fake bread; I LOVE the combination of [crappy canned] black olives + banana peppers + jalapenos. Like your Subway Nostalgia, mines is fueled more by memory than taste preference, but those types of cravings are OK, too.

    Subway also introduced me to Sunchips, for which I will be forever grateful.

  25. every once in awhile subway totally hits the spot. i was never a regular there though…i saved that for dunkin donuts when i was in high school / middle school.

    ummm i love those pictures. i think that taking a picture at every subway in san fran is a fantastic idea.

  26. This is so funny, because I read this last night and not two hours later Chris Solinsky tweeted about loving some chicken bacon footlong from Subway. He said it’s his favorite sandwich place and he eats there twice a week. True story.

  27. Yeah, subway really sucks but I totally go every few month. Whenever I walk by one the fake bread smell practically chokes me. I just don’t get that place.

  28. I can’t bring myself to eat Subway….think its cause I’m from the land of the hoagie on a fresh baked italian roll, not mass produced haha. But I eat some shitty foods. Like papa johns.

  29. What a great post. Totally took me back to simpler times. If we only knew what was to come! I don’t mind subway all that much actually. Its usually the best option on our many road trips across north Dakota. The only thing I hate is how the bread smell from being in the place stays in my hair until I wash it again. Please tell me that happens to other people?

    P.s. totally ate a bagel for lunch everyday on high school also. ZOMG they were fat free duh

  30. I haven’t been to Subway in months, but occasionally I’ll go for the same reasons; a random craving that simply cannot be satisfied by any other sandwich. I’m pretty in love with their sweet onion sauce, not going to lie about that one. I hate Subway’s rubbery, flavorless chicken, so I generally get turkey, shredded cheese (less waxy tasting than the triangles of fake shit), onions, tomatos, spinach…and delicious sweet onion sauce. Bread and sauce are pretty much the only thing you can taste on their subs thanks to the miniscule scraps of meat, but hey. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do, even if it calls for acquiring an overpriced crappy sammich.

    Also, I attempted to find Frenzy sauvignon blanc at Kroger last night to no avail. Picked up some Dancing Bull sauv instead though and it was delicious. Yay wine!

  31. OMG, I absolutely hate subway! We used to get in high school for our away games and it would sit on a school bus for 5 hours before we could eat it, and it was our only food for the night….painful memories!

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