Point-Counterpoint: The Monte Cristo Sandwich Is an Absurd Joke
There are very few foods I don't like. It comes with the territory. And I am incredibly stubborn about the foods I dislike.
Photo by Rick Auden The horrific Monte Cristo sandwich on this plate just barely distracts from the pale, green chunk of fruit that should be ashamed to be masquerading as honeydew.
By stubborn, though, I don't mean that I've pledged to hate them eternally. I mean that I will keep stubbornly trying foods I hate, year after year, just to see if perhaps my tastebuds have matured or enough of the ones that hate licorice have finally died off so that now -- after 31 years -- I will finally like black licorice.
It's happened with beets. It's happened with fennel. It's happened with menudo. (Our tastebuds do change over time, as do our perceptions of and attitudes toward various foods. Both are important in retraining your palate.) But this shift has yet to happen with Monte Cristo sandwiches, despite being fed large quantities of them pre-birth, while still in the womb. That's right: My experience with hating Monte Cristo sandwiches extends beyond my own life span.
Figure that magic out, NASA scientists.
As it is with nearly everything I hate, however (i.e., Katy Perry, Red Bull, the Insane Clown Posse, Burger King), my cubicle mate at work -- assistant music editor Craig Hlavaty -- loves goddamned Monte Cristo sandwiches. He challenged me to yet another food debate, and I'll concede that he actually won in spite of my best efforts.
Katharine: I just... Why? Why would anyone like a Monte Cristo sandwich? I honestly can't think of a single occasion in which salty, wet lunch meat and greasy cheese sandwiched between two soggy slices of sugared bread, topped with jam -- jam! to add insult to injury! -- would ever sound appealing to someone. I mean, let's put aside for a second how disgusting that "sandwich" is. When and why would you want one to begin with?!
I am become silicon(e), destroyer of worlds.
Craig: I think "salty, wet lunch meat and greasy cheese sandwiched between two soggy slices of sugared bread, topped with jam" is the answer to the "Why?" in your statement.
Look, Americans are insane as fuck. We went to the Moon, invented cars, rock and roll, and breast implants, and we gave the world Jenna Jameson. You think that a sugared sandwich that you dip in Welch's grape goo is somehow off the reservation? [Note: The Monte Cristo sandwich is an American take on the croque monsieur, a French creation which manages to retain some class by not being topped with powdered sugar or jelly.] Which reminds me, we also took over a country without regard to whoever was here first, which is off topic.
Katharine: I see your point and raise it: We are also the country that invented Turduckens and 24-hour Sprinkles cupcake vending machines. There is no point in arguing that Americans invent truly bizarre and/or nasty food meant to ultimately reduce each future generation's lifespan until we're living in Logan's Run not because of Carousel but because rampant arteriosclerosis and hypertension will kill us all before we reach the age of 30.
"My palm flower crystal turned black this morning. That means my LDL levels are critical. My only chance is to run it off in Cathedral while trying to avoid the sugar-crazed Cubs, and they just got an extra dose of Red Bull today."
But that does not explain to me how or why anyone could like a Monte Cristo. They are -- objectively speaking -- disgusting abominations. What tastes good about a soggy, hot, aborted deli sandwich dipped in gelled corn syrup?
Craig: I like to see a Monte Cristo as the ultimate American statement, like the atom bomb: "We have powdered sugar and aren't afraid to use it."
Think about the Double Down in 2010. It was so uniquely American that it horrified people to their core it seemed, but all it was was some of our most treasured foods slapped together in a really scrumptiously horrific way. I don't see a Monte Cristo as anymore offensive than veal, foie gras, or McNuggets. Or even the Sweet & Spicy Crispy Pig Ears at Hay Merchant. Whatever suits your fancy, floats your boat, and all that.
Think of the Monte Cristo as that Katrina & The Waves song, "Walking On Sunshine."