When I was planning this project, I nearly skipped right over leaf vegetables because, like cucumbers, they almost don’t even seem real to me, and apparently the rest of the world agrees because every time I mention that this is arugula week people give me weird looks and say, what are you going to do with that? (First of all, why are you asking such a dumbshit question, you know I have no idea what I’m doing, and second of all, why don’t you tell me what to do with it, that’s the whole fucking point of this project….) But as I was deliberating what to include on the list and what to toss, I decided I might as well do lettuce (is arugula lettuce? Or is lettuce its own thing? I should look that up, but I don’t care), because I habitually remove it from sandwiches and avoid foods where it’s a main feature, like salads. So on the list leafy greens went. And here we are at arugula week. And OK, fine, I looked it up, arugula is not lettuce.
I had the best plan for my first battle with arugula: a sandwich. Since I’m so picky about greens on sandwiches, I thought the best way to tackle arugula was to find a sandwich that agreed with both arugula and me. The prospect of this kind of excited me, because I really look forward to the day when I can order a BLT and not have to say, “Without lettuce,” and my server says, “Well then isn’t that just a BT?” Every. Time. Even though we know now arugula isn’t lettuce, I still think tackling arugula will lead to good things for me and the BLT.
So, I was at the grocery store buying all the parts for what was sure to be the best arugula sandwich ever, when I ran into my first hurdle, OK, my only hurdle, but it was kind of big. I couldn’t find one ingredient for that damn sandwich, not one, not one. I couldn’t find arugula. I panicked. Feeling like a complete asshole for even thinking of abandoning a sandwich because I couldn’t find what I was looking for at Publix (abandoning mushroom risotto because I was bewildered by the farmer’s market is one thing, giving up on a sandwich at a brightly lit and well-marked supermarket is another entirely, embarrassing), I took a few deep breaths and called Melissa to help me find my way around. She had given me the idea for the awesome sandwich in the first place and had deftly directed me to the pizza dough last time I was lost in the grocery store, so she was doubly the right person for the job.
Item 1: Goat Cheese
We searched way longer than we should have for this basic cheese. You would think it would be up front in the “cheeses of the world,” section, but I couldn’t find it there, so I went back to the fake cheese area where they have American cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, etc. The good stuff. Obviously it wasn’t there. You were right the first time when you thought it was in the cheeses of the world section, you just weren’t looking in the right place. Melissa sent me back up there and told me exactly where to find it, and of course it was exactly where she said it would be. Goat cheese, check. Also, port wine, brie and gouda. Check.
Item 2: Baguette
Obviously I’ve bought bread before, it’s beige. No real problems here, except that I always hem and haw at the last minute over what kind of bread to buy, do I really want baguette? Maybe I want Italian or Cuban, or maybe I want sour dough. But Melissa said baguette and sent me directly to the bakery, so baguette I got.
Item 3: Fig Jam
Things threatened to break down around the fig jam. Publix used to have a natural foods aisle, but the one I go to has mainstreamed their organic products with their traditional products, so now the good jams are mixed together with Smuckers, leaving a mystifying array of brightly labeled preserves to choose from. This is my least favorite thing about grocery shopping. The colors. Dial it back, big agribusiness.
If Publix had fig jam, I didn’t see it. I wasn’t on the phone with Melissa anymore because we figured once I found the cheese and bread and made my way to the jam section, I should be golden; arugula would obviously be in produce, and that’s all that was on the magical sandwich. But here I stood in front of a thousand different types of preserves, utterly stuck. No fig jam. So what’s a good substitute for fig? Have I ever had a fig? I’ve had a Fig Newton. Then I remembered being force fed a fig a few weeks ago (my friends hate me) and thinking maybe figs aren’t really for me, so if maybe figs aren’t my thing was it so bad that I couldn’t find fig jam? I got some chunky strawberry from a farm I’ve never heard of with a plain white label, my favorite. Things were looking up again.
Item 4: Arugula
I headed back over to produce for the last and most important ingredient, this week’s veg, arugula. I scanned the entire section before I realized I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. Is arugula that purple leaf? Or is it that big kind of fluffy one? Or it is smaller, more like an herb? Do they even sell arugula by itself or only mixed? I had my face right up in all the lettuces and greens, breathing on someone else’s future salad, reading what’s what and not finding shit about arugula, when the produce guy came by to restock. Thank god for the produce guy. I asked if he had arugula, like it was the most normal thing in the world, not like, what the fuck does this stupid shit vegetable look like and why can’t I find it?? And I just hoped it wasn’t right behind me. Instead, he reached behind him and pulled a fresh bag out of his magic arugula box. I wanted to give him a high five, but I just thanked him kindly and silently celebrated finding all the ingredients for my sandwich. Way to go, team.
At home, my magic arugula sandwich only took a few minutes to assemble and it was just the kind of sandwich I love: fresh, pretty and simple. And it was great. I thought about it for a while and decided the arugula actually added something to it, rather than being neutral or detracting from it, which is what I thought would happen. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I liked it, which I think bodes well for my future with the BLT.