Thursday, October 14, 2010
TBG Eats: The NEW Pastrami Grilled Sandwich from Jack in the Box
Current Weight: 171.4 lbs.
From my What Aaron Won't Eat post:
"Whenever I tell someone that I really don't like pastrami or corned beef [deli meat], their response is ALWAYS the same: "You've never had GOOD pastrami or corned beef."
That could be true…to a point.
Y'see, I was very young when my mother first introduced me to corned beef, but my memories of those innocuous meals are written with indelible ink – as are almost ALL food-related recollections from my morbidly obese adolescence. When money was especially tight, my mom would build dinner from a can of Mary Kitchen Corned Beef Hash and a few fried eggs.
In my five-year-old mind, I can still envision the hash when it first hit the skillet: the perfectly micro-diced potatoes, the cold gelatinous fat holding the contents of the can together and the over-processed corned beef that smelled saltier than seawater.
Back then, we ate LOTS of meat that came from a can – from Vienna sausages to deviled ham – and my mother had a knack for turning cheap eats into an event. "It's breakfast for dinner!", she'd declare. I was big into superheroes back then, so my mom would carve out the fried eggs' hard yolk, set the greasy egg whites atop the greasier entrée and insist that our corned beef hash was wearing a mask. (I only hope that one day, my six-year-old son Jalen has an equally awesome/embarrassing anecdote to share about me.)
Years later, canned corned beef hash was one of the first meals I made for myself when I moved out of my parents' house and into my own apartment. After one bite, I'd determined the only thing from my childhood that had aged worse than my sepia-and-sodium-toned memories of canned hash was the once-popular concept of sitcom character catchphrases.
Since then, I've sporadically enjoyed homemade corned beef and cabbage -- courtesy of everyone from my late grandmother to acquaintances who enable my family's freeloading ways. It's decent eatin', but nowhere near the exalted "last meal before lethal injection" level.
My relationship with pastrami was similarly dysfunctional. And, since my dad was a Georgia-born, Marine Corps-loyalist whose lunch pail reflected his uncomplicated tastes, the only mid-day meats my mother would buy were bologna, ham and that ol' African-American standby, cracklins.
Of course, my mom's purchasing tendencies leaned towards whatever was on sale at the supermarket or pictured on the front of an expiring 60-cent coupon. There were rare pre-packaged pastrami and roast beef cameos in our refrigerator, but California's lack of old-school delicatessens had me convinced that pastrami was the overly-salted, overly-peppered red meat that wasn't worthy of the Oscar Mayer seal it was stacked behind.
Yup...Oscar Mayer. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably let you know that my first taste of Philly cheesesteaks were from the mid-1980s national introduction of Steak-Umms. Don't judge me.
It's time for me to establish some deli credibility. Thankfully, Jack in the Box -- a local mom-n-pop operation known for deli sandwiches that are hand-crafted with humility -- has introduced its newest Grilled Sandwich, made with: pastrami, Swiss cheese, pickle strips and deli mustard on grilled Artisan bread.
Jack in the Box has had an exceptional track record with their Grilled Sandwich line. The Turkey, Bacon and Cheddar sandwich nabbed a perfect score back in March. A few months later, JitB's Grilled Breakfast Sandwich scored 4.5 out of 5. And, the streak ends at two.
During the few bites when the pastrami wasn't absolutely overpowered by the other ingredients, it brought back unpleasant memories of the mass-produced, commercial meat that I never developed much love for. Most of my sandwich, however, featured just two strong tastes through and through. This wouldn't be a problem if mustard and pickle sandwiches are acceptable to your palate.
Personally, I'm a "light mustard" and "no pickles" guy, but I held out hope that these condiments would work well with the meat. Instead, they took the pastrami out back to the alley and kicked the p*ss out of it. The Swiss cheese flavor was equally nonexistent, while the grilled bread -- usually warm, toasty and buttery -- was dry and stiff.
In all seriousness, I'm well aware that Jack in the Box isn't synonymous with "delicatessen". But, if this was pastrami's last attempt to win me over to its blue-collar, working-class deli symbolism, then I'll be sticking to MY blue-collar, working-class deli symbolism: white meat turkey breast with just a single strip of skin left on, avocado (sliced, not mashed), pesto spread and not-too-ripe tomatoes on a crusty roll. Oooh...and a teeny-tiny cup of the seafood bisque.
Don't forget where you came from, kids.
Grade: 1 (out of 5) Calories: 616 Fat: 32g