Each week we take a quick, cautious look at what's going on with televised cooking. This week: Sandwich King, a half-hour show about the Black Plague, Sundays at 11 a.m. on the Food Network.
Jeff Mauro, former stand-up comic, is the Sandwich King, but how he ascended to nobility I know not. I fear he may have been christened under a false god, because, you know, my fucking uncle is the Sandwich King every time he has four beers. I'm the Sandwich King whenever I buy ham. Being a Sandwich King is like being a Cereal King or Salad King. There's not much of a kingdom there. Verily, it's a fucking sandwich.
Still, I acknowledge his reign and sit down for the premiere of Sandwich King, season number two (the first season slipped quietly by last summer, veiled by an invisibility cloak). His sovereignty begins with tomato soup. He's making us wait for the sandwich. I'm impressed. That's how you rule the sandwich kingdom, by not making sandwiches. I really can't wait for that sandwich!
Earlier in the show his majesty went to a restaurant to watch someone else make a sandwich, and before he went in he did a little pop-and-lock move on the street corner -- my liege lord is a thirty-something white guy who, it's clear by now, failed as a stand-up. I've was sort of mulling this over while he made this tomato soup, so when the bread finally came out it took me a while to determine just what his lordship was doing.
But then I understood all to well. The first sandwich the Sandwich King made on premiere of The Sandwich King was a grilled-cheese sandwich -- for the prince.
His lordship lays two slices of American cheese on white bread. He spreads butter on it. It goes into a pan. It browns. My liege is exceedingly pleased with the way it browns. "Look at that," he says. We comply. It is brown.
It gets better.
His lordship holds up cookie cutters in the shape of stars. He presses the star shapes into the bread and, well, it is a star-shaped fucking mess, but he's done it. Star-shaped grilled-cheese sandwiches, on white bread with American cheese, for the child-prince.
And then, in a move that solidifies his position by sending his enemies insane with confusion, pouring back over the gates to rethink everything they thought they knew about retaining food-based nobility, he puts one of the star-shaped sandwiches RIGHT into a bowl of that tomato soup, for his toddler son to eat. He puts the SANDWICH into the SOUP, for the toddler to eat. He puts the SANDWICH into the SOUP for the ... I can do this all day. I have a toddler, and if I put a nice grilled-cheese sandwich into his tomato soup, the kitchen would very quickly look and sound like the Battle of Bannockburn.
It's clear, Jeff Mauro took his nobility by force, thanks to serious balls with all the attitude of tenth-season Emeril. Behind that affable clowning and baby-faced exterior, with his bad jokes and tired affectations (he pops and locks, he calls himself "Daddy," he kisses his bicep and says "ladies," he mugs like a clown playing for the back rows) he's really King Jogaila crushing the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald. The rest of the show is a blur. He makes another grilled cheese sandwich, "for adults," that contains onions. Then he cooks an entire meatloaf and cuts it up and makes it into another sandwich. The FN site claims this is called an All-American Down-Home Patriotic Meatloaf Sandwich, but I'm pretty sure site was hacked.
Go on, my liege, make these pedestrian sandwiches, but know this, we are watching, and when you slip up, when we understand just what the hell you are doing these sandwiches, we shall be upon you, with our knives and forks, and there will be blood -- or sauce. Mostly sauce.
All hail the Sandwich King!
Previously, Michael Leaverton watched:
Bama Glama, the show all Alabama loves to fight over in comment threads