Duke student pens diatribe against tomatoes on sandwiches

The student's spirited op-ed may be controversial, but the prose is worthy of a James Beard Award.

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Tomatoes are delicious. Anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly wrong. Like Sam Carpenter, a student at Duke University, who wrote a delightfully passionate op-ed condemning tomatoes on sandwiches in the Duke Chronicle, the university’s independent news organization.

Carpenter, a sophomore at Duke, recently took a trip to campus cafe Twinnie’s. He ordered a sandwich labeled the “Turkey Avocado Mayo Bacon.” To his dismay, the sandwich featured unexpected tomato. I will concede that because the sandwich has nearly all of its individual components listed in the name, the tomato might be an unexpected surprise. His vivid description of the eating experience illustrates his unhappiness with the discovery:

Upon taking the first bite of the sandwich, my tongue was assaulted by an acrid tanginess that instantly overwhelmed any other flavor. Worse, the texture was that of wet rubber: chewy and fibrous, yet unnervingly moist and slippery. Another ingredient was present, and there was more of it than even the avocado that was crucial to the name of the sandwich. Once again, Duke Dining had tricked me into eating something with tomato.

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Heh. Maybe we should give Carpenter a job at The Takeout someday, because that’s prose worthy of a James Beard Award. (I’d also like a James Beard Award, but I like cracking butt jokes in my food writing. I think I’m somehow disqualified.)

What’s funny is I had a version of that same exact turkey bacon avocado sandwich this past weekend here in Chicago, and it was a terrible sandwich, though mainly because they forgot the avocado. Maybe it’s just that sandwich. Perhaps it’s cursed. But not tomatoes. Tomatoes are awesome.

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Carpenter seems to dislike tomatoes’ juicy nature, which he describes as “an uncomfortable amount of juiciness.” (See? That’s James Beard stuff.) He then goes off on people adding tomatoes in places he deems inappropriate (“Twinnie’s has snuck tomatoes into many innocent-looking meals”) and says that tomatoes really function best when crushed or chopped, like on pizza or salsa. He doesn’t like them on sandwiches, which we think is a perfectly wonderful vehicle for tomatoes—as long as it’s a quality tomato. Maybe Duke University’s Dining Services has simply failed to source the good stuff.

Carpenter then highlights the fact that tomatoes are featured in a multitude of dishes at other university dining options (“Almost every bread-bound bite to eat at Pitchfork’s comes with tomato on it”), and argues that they shouldn’t be an all-purpose topping, but rather used judiciously. This student is entitled to his opinion, of course, even if it’s wrong. Tomatoes rule. Put them on everything, I say.