On Mass Ave in Cambridge, Massachusetts, two or three blocks roughly north-westish from Cambridge Common, there is a mom and pop grocery store/convenience store called Montrose Spa. Around Boston, that's what they often call franchiseless mom and pop things like that: "Spa". I am at a loss to explain that fact, but there it is. It's on your left if you're heading towards Porter Square.

At Montrose Spa, they make sandwiches. The king-hell papa-oo-mow-mow of sandwiches there is called the Cubano, which they pronounce "coo-bah-no." They take a loaf of what we in the USA call "French bread" and cut off about ten inches of it. This is sliced along its axis; spicy brown-speckled mustard is spread on the revealed inner surface of one half, and mayonnaise on the other. It is filled with sliced ham, sliced pork with pepper on the outside, swiss cheese, and toothsome pickle slices.

Clearly, they're on the right track, but here is where the whole thing elevates itself into realms of glory: They put the whole deal in what's called a "hot sandwich press", something like a very large waffle maker, but with flat cooking surfaces. The top is weighted, and they squash it down and leave the sandwich in there for a few minutes. Everything becomes warm and good. The bread becomes crunchy. The cheese begins to melt.

This is one hell of a sandwich. You take it home and eat it with a bottle of Magic Hat Blind Faith ale. Your eyes will roll back in your head. You will slide to the floor. You will be a happy camper. You will sleep soundly and dream dreams of unspeakable delight.

What does the name signify? I never thought to ask.

Gamaliel informs me (and so does ailie) that this is a Cuban sandwich, and very common in Florida. Florida sounds better already.

In Puerto Rico the Sandwich Cubano isn't the only sandwich that's pressed to warm it up. Almost all sandwiches are treated in this this way. In most cases the sandwich press improves the finished product, but a hot tunafish salad sandwich isn't one of them. Yechh! Still, I do wonder why presses are not more popular in the States. I've never been to Cuba, but, judging from its name, I'm certain that the delicacy wharfinger mentions originated there.

One thing wharfinger didn't specifically stress is the size of the thing. It's enormous! When a Puerto Rican isn't quite up to the full treatment, he can order something called a medianoche, literally a "midnight" sandwich, which is almost a junior version of the Cubano. For that a special egg bun is used. I'll just bet challa could be used as well. This bun is pale yellow in color and about 8 inches long. Place in layers on one side of the bread:
  • mayonnaise
  • dill pickle slices
  • thin slices roast pork
  • slices of ham
  • Swiss cheese
Cover and brush with melted butter and press. If you don't have a press, use a toaster oven with almost the same effect. It seems important that the whole sandwich is pressed down with some kind of weight for at least part of the heating procedure.

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