A bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich can be many things: good, bad, cheap, expensive, readily available, rare, redemptive, a thing to argue about endlessly with respected colleagues. It is not, however, a “secret handshake that New Yorkers exchange” or anything else that Pete Wells describes it as in his recent and stupid essay in the New York Times about the breakfast staple.
Wells’s supposed ode to the BEC is exposed as a wretched failure, an out-of-touch disaster, in just his fourth sentence: "Almost everybody has untucked one from its double wrapping of wax paper and foil, but almost nobody mentions it unless an order for one is being placed."
No. I—and similarly enlightened people—discuss bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches weekly, if not daily. I sometimes to go to bed thinking of them. Where can the country's best bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich be purchased? The answer is: at Towson Hot Bagel’s original location, in Towson, Md., on a toasted everything bagel with an extra egg.
Now that you and I have argued about the location of the country's best bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and I have won, allow me to address Wells's next point:
Egg sandwiches are found all around the country in one form or another — on a biscuit in the South, maybe; with Taylor pork roll in New Jersey, for sure. The ones in New York City, though, have a character of their own. What makes them New Yorky is not the ingredients, but the way the sandwich is purchased and consumed: quickly.
The sandwich, being designed to satisfy practical needs rather than voluptuary desires, has to be ready fast. Its customers will not stand still for the unaccountably long waiting-around times that espresso drinkers now submit to.
First of all: I'm no pork roll in New Jersey. Secondly: Again, no. The defining characteristic of a New York BEC is a stale roll. People who see the bacon, egg, and cheese as something unique to New York are, at best, delusional and, at worst, trying to sell me two sandwiches from their bodega instead of the one I am already buying.
And while most breakfast sandwiches, no matter where in the country they’re ordered, are purchased and consumed quickly out of necessity (again, not a phenomenon unique to New York City), there is plenty of room to “make the morning egg sandwich purveyors get dressed up and march in a fancy-food parade,” as Wells derisively puts it later in the essay. There is a time and a place for pricier, more refined bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, like Sunday mornings at Mayfield; this is not “missing the point,” as Wells claims, but enjoying another variation of one of the world's great sandwiches.
Then the essay shifts back to making bizarre claims about New Yorkers' alleged special relationship with breakfast sandwiches: “New Yorkers are loyal to the sandwich because it is loyal to them.”
Everyone is loyal to the breakfast sandwich, Pete.
Next, an argument that using better ingredients in a bacon, egg, and cheese is like… putting on a clean shirt? Or that it makes you less gritty and heroic? It's not clear.
Trying to improve the breakfast sandwich by spending more on the bacon is like telling a fireman who just dragged four children out of a burning house to change his shirt before he goes on the evening news.
I don’t know, man. Seems like you can have fancy egg sandwiches along with the ones that rescue children from burning buildings.
And then there’s the final paragraph.
The great virtue of the bacon, egg and cheese on a roll, or its variations, is in what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t divide New Yorkers by class, income or neighborhood. It doesn’t seek publicity. It doesn’t convey status or bragging rights. It just conveys nutrition and, if you need it, settles your nerves. It is a secret handshake that New Yorkers exchange, not with one another, but with the city.
The “great virtue of the bacon, egg and cheese” is that it’s delicious. Grow up, idiot.