Monday, March 1, 2010

My Guilty Pleasure - A Steak Sandwich

Recently I treated myself to a guilty pleasure that I allow myself only once or twice a year: a Steak Sandwich. It's not particularly healthy; but man is it delicious! Nothing fancy. I just slice some grilled steak and add thinly sliced onions, tomato and lettuce. I prefer toasted sourdough bread, coated with mayonnaise and horseradish.

When I married Kathleen, she didn’t make or eat sandwiches. For some reason, she didn’t consider them “real food.” After trying out some of my concoctions over the years, she'll eat sandwiches now. She even likes my steak sandwich, I think partially because I told her this story.

When I was 22, I had the opportunity to attend the Army’s Ranger School, where I learned the skills that probably saved my life in Vietnam. The experience was so physically and mentally demanding that I later thought combat was like a daily walk in the park. Except for getting shot at, of course.

During the Georgia mountain phase in late November, 1967, we were on a 13-day patrol. In a typical day we would navigate all day and all night up and down hills with thick underbrush, no matter what the weather, carrying 50-pound packs and weapons, and then attack an objective just before dawn. If we didn't get lost, there might be time for a couple hours of sleep, usually on the cold ground under a poncho curled up next to my Ranger buddy. Food was dropped by helicopter at prearranged coordinates; one day’s rations consisted of the equivalent of a can of beans, four crackers and a candy bar. It was a physical ordeal, and towards the end of that patrol, I discovered I was hallucinating.

You get the picture. We were deprived of all creature comforts. So when we had time to rest, guess what my buddies and I talked about. No, it was never about women or sex. The only thing we ever talked about was food—what we were going to eat once we were back home. Each of us described in detail a favorite food. When it was my turn, I described a steak sandwich. We did this over and over again in a kind of verbal ritual.

After graduating from Ranger School, the first thing I did was to find a restaurant in the Atlanta airport. Still in uniform, I walked up to the waitress and asked her if she could make me a steak sandwich. I described it to her exactly the way I had described it to my buddies so many times out in the boonies. "There's no steak sandwich on the menu," she said. But I gently reached out and touched her shoulder and told her it was important. She gave me a look, and then she disappeared into the kitchen. What she produced was exactly what I had imagined. I ate it with great relish.

On the plane I was served a hot meal, which I immediately consumed. I asked the stewardess if she had any more meals, and she brought me another. Flying was a lot different back then. I arrived in El Paso at midnight and was greeted by my wife, whom I hadn’t seen in three months. She said, “What are you up for?” I considered my options and said, “Let’s go get something to eat.” I ate a big breakfast at Denny’s. She didn’t seem that hungry, so I ate most of hers, too. The next morning, I ate another big breakfast. I had a lot of catching up to do in the food department.

Ever since, I've never been late for dinner. I'm blessed to be married to a beautiful woman who thinks cooking is a form of creativity and fun. But every now and then, I've just got to have my steak sandwich.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., , Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Sean said...

Life is full of little pleasures like this. It's kind of funny, you know? If you had won the lottery and never had to work again, what would you want to do? Chances are good that you would still occasionally want that steak sandwich, which costs less than $10 at any diner.

As we identify more and more of these pleasures we begin to realize that we don't need to win the lottery in order to be happy.

Denny Coates said...

That's a very profound thought, Sean, and adds a layer of meaning to my story. I should remember it the next time I treat myself to a steak sandwich...I'll enjoy it even more!

Gwyn Teatro said...

A great story!

I'm thinking that your steak sandwich is more of a simple pleasure than a guilty one. Somehow the word "guilty" does not convey, at least to me, the bliss of doing something that you reserve for "once in a while".
And to Sean's point, happiness lives where simple pleasures abound.