A great sandwich can linger forever

As a little girl on a very long road trip with my family one summer, my senses were awakened to the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

At every lunch spot between San Francisco and Los Angeles, including two days at Disneyland where hamburgers and foot-long hotdogs abound, nothing less than a BLT would do for me.

The experience didn't weary me of this wonderful marriage of flavor and texture. Indeed, the melding is impossible to improve upon, especially when the tomatoes have come straight from a summer garden, as I discovered just a few years ago.

It was after a 12-hour, non-stop drive from Oregon to California with my two young nephews. My sister-in-law's mother welcomed us with open arms and freshly made BLTs.

Lee had toasted the whole-grain bread to perfection, slathered on a silky layer of mayonnaise and added thin, tender sheets of lettuce, crisp ribbons of smoky bacon and thick slices of juicy tomato still warm from the sun.

At the moment she thrust this miracle into my hands, a BLT was the furthest thing from my mind. And yet, with the first bite, it turned out to be exactly the right tonic to revive a very weary road warrior. I relish the pleasure of devouring it to this very day.

Such is the way with masterpieces of the sandwich genre. Not flash-in-the pan concoctions mind you, but items of substance.

Culinary couplings of ingredients that, when combined, do more than occupy the same space in your mouth. Combinations in which the whole is far more sublime than the sum of the parts.

You know them by name: Reuben, club, chicken salad and grilled cheese, to mention only a few. I've taken some of these great traditions and added just a twist. Not to improve the originals, but simply to play off their best features.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by e-mail at janrd@proaxis.com.

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