Thoughts on a Sandwich

*From time to time, we share the writing of our friends and co-workers on this site. Today’s guest post comes from the blog of Zingerman’s Deli staffer Maddie LaKind. 

I owe much of my college career to a sandwich. Ok, maybe that’s an overstatement, but it definitely played a big part. Let me explain. Ever since my toddler years, I have been bred to attend the University of Michigan. I wore the merch, visited campus, memorized the cheers, heard stories of the good ole’ college days from my parents and relatives, and housed a collection of maize and blue clothing that puts my current student collection to shame. Becoming a wolverine seemed like my young-adult destiny, until it came time for the college application process.

Knowing that Michigan held the title of my top school, I only applied to three others: two “safety” schools and the University of Wisconsin Madison, which, despite my extreme infatuation with Ann Arbor, almost dissuaded me from coming here. Having visited Madison at the peak of fall, I fell head over heels for the school. Who wouldn’t love a lakeside campus, stunning foliage, top of the line facilities, and a thriving capital city to boot?

As much as it wowed me, it lacked a certain crucial element that couldn’t be found anywhere but Ann Arbor. No, it wasn’t the eclectic music scene, the renowned Ann Arbor Film Festival, chipatis, or the unparalleled Big Ten football culture; it was Zingerman’s Delicatessen, or, more specifically, the #73 sandwich, Tarb’s Tenacious Tenure. On the day before Thanksgiving 2008, I sent in my acceptance e-mail to the University of Michigan. Deal done.


Now you may be thinking that this rationale is completely ridiculous given the importance of one’s college decision. I mean how could somebody possibly determine the fate of their college career because of a sandwich? For me it was simple; I wanted to be in the same community as Zingerman’s, hang out and study there, explore their menu, and, maybe someday, even work there.

As a wide-eyed kid whose world revolved around Food Network and personal endeavors in the kitchen, visiting Zingerman’s for the first time felt like I had reached foodie Mecca. I couldn’t get enough of it and made a point to my parents that upon any visit to or passing through Michigan, Zingerman’s be made a priority stop.  It was during these seminal years of early Ann Arbor exposure that I first experienced the sandwich bliss of the #73, which quickly became not only my sandwich of choice, but also a contender for one of my favorite dishes of all time.

The sandwich is simple enough, but the combination of ingredients, textures, and tastes always appealed to me in a very big way. Starting with two hefty slices of Farm Bread (which I liken to a more mild sourdough with a thicker, heartier crust), the sandwich combines turkey, sliced tomatoes, avocado spread (simply comprised of mashed avocado and lime juice), and healthy schmear of housemade Russian dressing. The sandwich is then briefly pressed on the grill until reaching that characteristic Zingerman’s Deli golden glow and, after being paired with a fresh cucumber pickle (aka a “new” pickle), is ready to eat.

For nearly ten years before I came to Michigan as a student and eventually began working at the deli, I couldn’t shake this sandwich from my mind: the unparalleled crunch of double baked bread, heaping layers of savory turkey, and the fresh, summery essence of fresh tomatoes, all rounded out by citrus and tang from the Russian and avocado spread. Can you tell I have a bit of a love affair going on with this sandwich?

Having eaten a good share of Zingerman’s sandwiches over the course of my employment (which began the beginning of my sophomore year), I can easily name ten to twenty others that taste-wise are just as excellent. However, none of them carries the personal nostalgia factor quite like the Tarb’s. Which is why, to this day, it is still my go-to recommendation for new guests and old friends a like. For me, this sandwich represents so much more than just a lunchtime fixin’. It’s a symbol of a place that values and adores food A place that creates memories, has fun, and helped define my college experience. It taught me the value of hard work, provided me with friends and loving co-workers and it makes me happier than any other place on earth.

So no, it wasn’t actually a sandwich that dictated everything, but it definitely helped push me in the right direction and kept me smiling and satiated every step of the way.

Maddie will close the book on her University of Michigan studies in a couple of weeks, but we look forward to seeing more of her writing here.