Anyone of Indian descent (or anyone knowing a constantly-hungry person of Indian descent like me) has probably heard of ‘chutney’, and more specifically the ‘chutney sandwich’. Briefly, chutney is a kind of synonym for condiment, and can be used to describe any Indian sauce-like dish that’s used as for dressing, garnish, dipping, etc.
The specific implementation of chutney that I refer to in this post is the chutney sandwich, which is, well, a sandwich made using chutney. Found at road-side stands and street vendors all over India (note: maybe not – this might only be a Gujrati thing?), this sandwich consists merely of a dab of butter and a layer of chutney spread over the bread, with cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in the middle. The chutney used in this sandwich is a green one made by combining cilantro & lemon (for a kind of refreshing flavor), chili peppers (for kick), peanuts (no clue why – maybe thickness?), salt, pepper, and water. That’s it. Both the chutney and the sandwich itself are delightfully simple, but incredibly delicious.
My family, like many other Indian families I know, has imported this dish (if you can call it that) and make these sandwiches fairly regularly. I’m not sure why exactly – my best guess is that it combines some of the authenticity and culture of our origins with the hassle-free preparation and cleanup of a sandwich. Either way, I’ve eaten a lot of these things in my life. Some of my best memories are making these sandwiches with my family on lazy weekend afternoons, and it’s still a meal we all eat together at least once whenever I visit home. Over the years, we’ve added jalapenos & pepper jack cheese as ingredients and started toasting the sandwiches, but the basic elements have always remained pure. My mom makes the chutney herself, and a few years ago, taught me how to make it myself.
That’s right. I can make my own chutney. Fuck yeah.
The chutney sandwich has gotten me through many a meal in my life. In college and grad school, chutney sandwiches let me keep meal costs down and bar tabs up. And it continues to be a tasty, cost-effective dish in my current post-grad funemployed state (read: cheap meal when I lack a steady paycheck).
Last night I set out to prepare myself a couple of chutney sandwiches (yes I can put two down in one sitting) for dinner. I went through the standard motions, slicing the veggies and pre-heating the toaster oven. It was when I reached back into the refrigerator that my world of chutney sandwiches got flipped upside down.
For there, sitting next to the tupperware of home-made chutney, was a small little take-out condiment container holding a side of volcano sauce I had brought home from Taco Bell the day before.
Could I do it?
Could I take one of my most beloved meals of all time and alter it so dramatically?
Could I replace culture, tradition, and self-made greatness with mass-produced, unknown-ingrediented, bright orange goop?
Could I take the chutney sandwich – a staple of my existence – and make it a Volcano Sandwich?
You bet your ass I could. And let me tell you, it was one of the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.
The world has changed, people. The world has changed.