The Great Coffee Pot Sandwich Scandal
Just about every city or town worth a mention has some sort of food closely associated with it. Philadelphia has the cheese steak.
New Orleans has the po’ boy.
Boston has the baked bean.
And Washington, D.C. has the earmark.
(I know a restaurant where they make them with real ears.)
Maine is no exception to this trend. Old Orchard Beach has pier fries.
Greenville has the Skinny Dip sandwich.
Lewiston has the McDonald’s Quarter-Pounder with Cheese.
And Bangor has bangors and mash.
Or possibly not. The crack research team here at Down East.com has informed me that it’s spelled “bangers and mash” and is not associated with Bangor. But you can see how anyone could make that mistake.
In fact, the iconic food-like substance most closely linked to the Queen City is the Coffee Pot Sandwich, a mouthwatering combination of shards of Pyrex and plastic handles, all topped with onions.
Or possibly not. The friendly folks in the fact-checking department have informed me that I may have taken the name of this item a bit too literally, since the Coffee Pot Sandwich does not contain actual pieces of coffee pot.
Hey, anyone could have been fooled. Maybe the one I had was a little stale.
Anyway, the real Coffee Pot Sandwich, according to the Bangor Daily News, contains salami, ham, cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, pickles, oil, red pepper flakes, and some kind of special onions, all on a freshly baked roll. It got its name because it was served at a now-defunct lunch place called the Coffee Pot. Also, because the name Salami-Ham-Cheese-Green- Peppers-Tomatoes-Pickles-Oil-Red-Pepper-Flakes-And-Some-Kind-Of-Special-Onions-All-On-A-Freshly-Baked-Roll Sandwich takes up too much space on the daily specials board.
There are, perhaps, those picky types, who would point out that the Coffee Pot Sandwich bears an uncanny resemblance to the Italian Sandwich invented by the Amato family of Portland in 1492 or shortly thereafter. This is nonsense, of course. The traditional Italian doesn’t have salami, red pepper flakes, or special onions, and the pickles are long slices, rather than round ones placed on top like in the Coffee Pot.
But before I spark a Portland-Bangor war over the exact selection of cold cuts and veggies that constitute the perfect combination, let me hasten to point out that the original Coffee Pot Sandwich no longer exists. It vanished about three months ago, when its namesake eatery closed. Since then, numerous imitations have appeared, including the “Coppee Pot” at the Court Street Market, the “Tea Pot” at Jimmy V’s and McDonald’s “McCoffee Pot.”
But for a while, Bangor was in danger of losing its signature food product and being forced into the same municipal category as such dismal places like Boise (“Have a Snickers Bar With an Expired Sell-By Date”), Walla Walla (“Just Smear Peanut Butter On It, And It’ll Probably Taste Better”) and Hancock (“No, But We Do Have Bloodworms, And They’re Pretty Filling If You Cook ‘Em Right”).
Fortunately, the city was spared this embarrassment when two long-time employees of the original Coffee Pot announced they were opening a new place called the Coffee Pot Café, which will serve the namesake sandwich in all its glory.
Or some of its glory.
Skip Rist, the former owner of the old Coffee Pot and inventor of the sandwich, is reportedly displeased at the prospect that somebody else will now control the world’s supply of his creation. And no wonder. The new Coffee Pot Café might just be a front for an international conspiracy aimed at creating a cartel that could crush Bangor’s self-image with the merest menu change.
Although the Down East.com research staff seems to think this scenario is mere speculation on my part and should be disregarded by any reader with an IQ higher than the average dill pickle.
In any case, there’s other important culinary and agricultural news to report: Maine’s orange growers now have an organization dedicated to the promotion of their interests.
It’s called the Screwdriver Club, and it’s committed to getting more people to skip coffee in the morning and drink screwdrivers instead.
OK, before the research geeks get here, I admit I made that up.
But let’s face facts. Maine’s production of oranges in 2009 ranked dead last in the United States. Well, technically, we were tied for last with places like Montana, North Dakota and Alaska, but it’s still kind of embarrassing. To improve that dreadful statistic, a group of enterprising lads from Hallowell has formed the Maine Orange Growers Association, with the expressed goal of preparing the state for its first harvest.
Once global warming changes the climate sufficiently. In fifty or a hundred years or so.
And to drink beer.
Wait. Shouldn’t they be ordering something with oranges in it? I suppose they could put a slice of the fruit in one of those Belgian beers, but that’s not going to do enough to promote their cause.
I wonder if the Cup serves tiki drinks.
I suspect not, but I’ll do my own research on that at the earliest opportunity.
In the meantime, let’s turn to the biggest news of the week, namely the arrival in Maine of …
Even though his popularity isn’t what it once was, I realize it’s still a big deal to have an internationally recognized figure like him in Maine. But I was surprised at the Beatlemania-like madness that has preceded this event.
I mean, when’s the last time this guy had a hit? It has to be forty years or more.
Uh oh, research nerds again. What? President who? In Maine when? You idiots. I’m not talking about Barack Obama coming to Portland to promote his health-care-reform law. This is about something much bigger. Something you’d know about if you ever stopped nitpicking my copy and went out to have some normal-person fun. I’m talking about …
Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone.
They’re at Hollywood Slots on April 2.
Hey, that’s in Bangor. I can get a Coffee Pot Sandwich while I’m there.
Al Diamon is just kidding. He wouldn’t be caught dead at a Herman’s Hermits concert when he could be staying home to watch his Gerry and the Pacemakers videos. You can reach him there by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org