August 10th, 2011
09:30 AM ET
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Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. Here's how to pronounce it.

A tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on store-bought white bread is the finest sandwich known to mankind.

This is not up for debate, and the ingredients are not negotiable. Salt and pepper are permissible, but if you try to get schmancier than that, you'll screw it all up, and your sandwich should be taken away from you until you learn to properly appreciate the simple perfection of this combination.

You will not have the opportunity to eat one between, say, mid-September and the beginning of next August, so it's best that you consume them as frequently as humanly possible while tomatoes are in season. One a day would not be overkill and you and your physician should just devise a plan for counteracting any potential over-mayonnaising you may encounter during this period of your gastronomic life.

There may not be Duke's mayonnaise for sale where you live. That's a shame, and you should really try to get some, because it's markedly less sugary than other commercial mayonnaise brands and allows the tomato slices to sing their luscious, sweet and tangy tune.

Hellmann's will also get the job done, but if anyone begins to bring up the possibility of making the mayonnaise for this sandwich at home ("It's sooooo eeeeaaasssyyy. Just use your bllleeeenderrrr..."), banish them to the porch until they have contemplated the error of their ways. Yes, even if it is raining. Simplicity is serious business here.

Same goes for the white bread. You must not make this bread, nor should the word "artisanal" be uttered within 100 paces of it. You must purchase this bread and the word "crappy" must be at least somewhat applicable to it. Chef Bill Smith of Crook's Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina makes his with store-bought bread (a move New Orleans chef Adolfo Garcia reportedly referred to as "ballsy") and the man's won or been nominated for every big cooking award under the sun. Trust him, for he is a professional maker of tomato mayo sandwiches.

Upon this soft, crappy bread, slather the mayonnaise. How thickly and on one or both slices - that's your business. On top of one slice, layer tomatoes.

Now, these tomatoes. You did not under any circumstances pick these up at the supermarket, unless you know for really and for truly that they've worked out some sort of deal with a local farmer. This isn't about being a snob; it's about making sure your food tastes of something other than vaguely sour red-colored packing material and was picked under humane conditions.

The tomatoes should come from a farm, a farmstand, a neighbor or if you're extremely lucky, your own garden. If the angels are smiling upon you from the heavens and you saved a basket of kittens from certain death on a railroad track in a past life, these tomato will be of an heirloom variety. They should be red (yes the yellows, oranges and purples are stunning to behold, but we're on a particular mission here) and taste of blue skies and blazing sun. At the very least, they should have been grown in soil rather than a hydroponic compound, but sometimes, we must make do. If they have seen the inside of a fridge, though, skip them. These are not the tomatoes you're looking for.

Cut the slices to whatever depth brings you the greatest pleasure. For some, this will be akin to the thickness of a thumb. Others may wish to skim this month's copy of Nightshade Enthusiast through theirs. Either way, you're in it for the juice - or rather the locular jelly, which is that luscious goop in the center that holds all the acid. There should be enough of that to stain the mayonnaise a light pink and make your knees buckle just a little bit.

When you're finished layering the slices. Stack on the top slice and...wait. It'll taste good right now, but it'll be even better in ten or fifteen minutes when the juice has had a chance to seep in and meld with the mayonnaise and juuuuust begin to sog up that first millimeter or two of bread. You've held out all year for tomatoes to be in season - what's a few minutes more?

And when you do finally grasp that sandwich with both hands, lift it to your mouth and take that first big, sloppy bite of summer, all the world will melt away for a minute. Then you'll start dreaming of your next one.

Previously - Heirloom tomatoes, explained and You really should be putting tomatoes in your drinks

soundoff (438 Responses)
  1. Matthew

    I guess the "South" doesn't have Bacon, or lettuce like us sophisticated people do...

    August 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
  2. JeffShaffer

    The best tomato sandwich is a grilled cheese with a slice of tomato on white toast with salt pepper and Blue Plate Mayo from The Big Easy

    August 3, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
  3. RC

    I know-I know. It sounds bad. Peanut butter and mayonnaise. Choose your bread. Just try it. :)

    September 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • JeffShaffer

      Yes, Peanut Butter on fried Chicken is even better. Explodes in your mouth.

      August 3, 2014 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Roberta

    BLT on toasted white bread with Hellman's mayo; iced tea to wash it down

    August 18, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
  5. billy D

    I'm from Rhode Island and grew up on Tomato & Mayo sandwiches, every summer we ate these as often as we could.. We had a huge garden and had to eat them while they were fresh. Also try fresh cut tomato slices and top with a mixture of wine vinegar or lemon juice with mashed up garlic clove and salt. It is strong potent stuff and will give you ka-ka dragon breath for hours after!

    My 2nd favorite sandwich now and that we always has as kids was the Banana and Mayo w/sugar Sandwich. Slice ripe bananas are placed on white bread with mayonnaise and white granular sugar is sprinkled on the bananas. It is crunchy sweet and mayonnaisey all at once. I love them!

    My 3rd favorite sandwich is a Campbells Bean and mayonnaise sandwich., my mother always packed it in my school lunches in the late 1960's and early 70's and she said her mother gave it to her when she was a kid too. Take 1 regular sized can Campbells pork and beans and a blob of mayo, mix it up and put it on white bread, or a New England Style Hot Dog bun. I know it sounds nasty but try it, it is delicious. Reminds me of hummus or bean dip.

    You can't buy any of these in Rhode Island, these are just home cooked things as far as I know. We have great Hot Weiners, Lobster or Clam Rolls in Rhode Island, you should try all of them!

    April 2, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  6. HazyJoe



    September 10, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  7. conchchowder

    White Bread? Salt-Rising-Bread is the definitive bread for a tomato sandwich. Just ask Aaron Weiner from Carolina Mountain Bakery in Asheville, North Carolina. This turns the tomato sandwich into a religious experience.

    September 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • David

      Have to check that out. Thanks for sharing.

      August 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
  8. Rita

    Only South Georgia homegrown tomato for the very best tomato sandwich. Better yet, leave off everything else and just eat the tomato. Loved all the comments.

    September 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  9. Gail

    The bread must be toasted – then a touch of butter, the mayo, tomato, salt & a touch of pepper. Perfection.

    September 8, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  10. CMS

    If you're not willing to put bacon on it, I suggest adding cucumber slices.

    September 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • jeanneb

      Even better if the cucumbers came from a "pickled" cuke salad!

      August 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
  11. Dave Horn

    BLT with a fried egg is the best summer sandwich ever, don't be a goose.

    August 22, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  12. close but not quite..

    home grown green ox heart tomato, lightly salted and tossed in a little bit of flour and pan fried in butter with two strips of bacon. now that's the best mater sammich ever.

    course if maters aren't in season then you can't knock a BLM – bacon lettuce and mayo xD

    August 20, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  13. CatinHiding

    I LOVE this simple but very tasty sandwich! I would use Wheat Bread, however, simply for the health benefits and the flavor is still wonderful! I like my bread toasted with the Tomato/Mayo blend + a bit of salt & pepper. Yummy... I live on these when the fresh produce is in season.

    August 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  14. Peggy

    We just got a load of fresh heirlooms in our CSA this week, so I will definitely be putting this claim to the test this weekend! Now to see if Duke's is available here in Louisville =)

    August 19, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  15. ks

    Lightly toasted store bought white bread with strawbwerry jam and fried egg cooked over easy. The egg has to be tad salty and real gooey!. yumm!!!

    August 17, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  16. mark

    Crappy white bread = Sunbeam buttermilk bread
    Mayonnaise = Blue Plate mayo
    Tomatoes from the farmer down the road where I grew in Mississippi
    Bacon is optional, but if you have a truly divine tomato, you will NOT dare to eat it with bacon.
    Salt and pepper are mandatory for this sandwich.

    I miss the South! I miss my 'maters!!!! Nothing is better than a Mississippi tomato. It must be the hot sun that really does it.. I don't know. Maybe the soil? Since I've lived in Maryland, I've not had a reallly zesty tomato, no matter what the promise of local farmers' markets or organic cultivation may offer. =(

    August 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • ook

      Dude, where are you in Maryland??

      August 27, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
  17. kcsenecal

    This sounds so disgusting.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  18. Judy- Divina Cucina

    to be really perfect– NEEDS BACON

    August 16, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  19. julie t

    I agree on the "purity" of the recie and its really good, better with crispy bacon..however tops is my Mom's pimento cheese on any kind of bread or cracker.

    August 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • jim murray

      Add a little grated raw onion with some of its juice to the mayo.

      August 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
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