Ode to the Toasted Special
Have you ever had one of those days? You know the one. Where you are zapped from inside out, perhaps you’ve drank too much, perhaps you’ve not slept enough, someone is rapping on your head at work or maybe you are actually ill? You’re probably hungover, let’s be honest.
I had one of those days recently. I felt like my brain was tucked too tightly in my skull and surrounded by bubble wrap, with just enough room for a tiny annoying creature with a pin to roam around squeezing through and bursting one bubble after another.
What to do? Well, I was in Ireland so I had to seek out the Toasted Special.
The Toasted Special is a thing of beauty and simplicity and should not under any circumstances be messed around with. There was a time when every pub in Ireland sold them. A simple toasted sandwich with ham, cheese, onion, tomato. Ideally some butter on the outside of the bread so that they brown and crisp beautifully. I will forgive you some parsley but never, ever, under any circumstances relish or any other ingredients which folk think will gentrify this humble sandwich. They don’t. They kill it.
Don’t dare give me panini bread, or foccacia. Sliced pan (Irish for sliced bread ;), that’s all, you hear me? Where have they all gone? I trekked the streets of Cork searching in vain. Foccacia, panini, relish. I gave up. Almost (as you know I never do). We decided to just settle for a drink instead and, I thought while at the bar, why not just ask?
Do you do food?
No, only toasted specials?
Do you put anything like relish in them?
I’m sorry, no.
Great. Do you use normal bread? No paninis or anything like that?
Sorry, yes, just normal bread.
Oh, that crispy bread, slippery melted cheese and onion, juicy tomatoes, and porky ham. It was perfect. It redeemed the day for 20 minutes. And then we went and looked for another one. We failed. That’s ok, I am home now with my toasted sandwich maker and I can eat toasted sandwiches all I like.
We love toasted sandwiches in Ireland. Love them. There is a café in Camden that sells only toasted sandwiches. Owned by an Irish man. Of course. Toasted sandwiches with crisps on the side. Toasted sandwiches with chilli and cheese inside (do try one: sinful but glorious).
What do you put in your toasties? They’re so underrated! The Toasted Special is king but I love plain cheese and onion sometimes. Chorizo and manchego. You really can’t beat a tomato in the mix. I’ve had leftover chilli and cheese in there as Toasted do. Sausages. Eggs. Jam (I was only about 8). the B3: brie, bacon and broccoli is surpirsingly delicious. Leeks are good in there too.
Fried sandwiches are good but the toasted sandwich maker tops all, where the steam comes rushing out in a cheeky effort to burn your fingers or your tongue and often succeeds.
Always forgiven though. You can’t beat the humble toastie.