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Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: Back to basics

Photo: A sandwich on a plate on a wooden surface. The sandwich is cut in half to reveal melty goodness inside. Photo by Sami Schalk.

Continue the practice of pleasure with a bacon bourbon BBQ sandwich.

Happy New Year, readers! The winter weather plus the emotional chaos of the holidays plus the horrific surge in COVID cases had me locked in a rough depressive episode to start off 2022 and I’m finally emerging again. When I’m struggling to get dressed, shower, eat or function in the world, I have to get back to the most basic pleasure practices like wearing clothes that delight me (I’m wearing a Monsters, Inc. onesie as I write this), resting, moving my body gently (lately that’s been Pilates and swimming), rewarding myself for self-care tasks, and making low-effort, high-pleasure food.

Coming off the holidays, I had some bougie food items around from our Glitzmas (a femme celebration of queer kinship, sparkle, glitter, and shine that my partner and I made up as our own December 24 and 25 tradition) so I’ve been making some fancied-up sandwiches to use up the leftovers. In the past few weeks I’ve had sandwiches made with the remains of our charcuterie board and Glitzmas morning breakfast including Madison Sourdough bread, sour cherry preserves, chianti flavored salami, bacon and chive cream cheese, and a mango habanero cheddar. I find that new experiences, even small ones, simple ones, can help light up the pleasure parts of my brain, even when I’m in a depressive episode. Reminding myself of my capacity for pleasure and joy even while experiencing significant and prolonged emotional lows helps remind me that each episode is temporary and that my ability to feel good is not entirely gone. That’s why this column is called pleasure practices, because experiencing deep satisfaction requires continual engagement with ourselves to know and understand what brings us pleasure. 

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And one thing that brings me pleasure is good food. Obviously. I find that one nice, new, or interesting ingredient is all you need to create something delightful. You can get creative with leftovers like I’ve been doing or find one sauce, cheese, relish, meat, or pickled vegetable that seems interesting to you at the grocery and put it on a sandwich (or two or three to learn how it pairs with different flavors). Treating yourself can truly be as simple as you want or as you can manage in any particular moment. Practicing how to create and experience pleasure is the goal. As I’ve written before, fancy sandwiches require good bread and good ingredients with your choice of cooking methods. Panini presses are cool as are toaster ovens. I do mine on a cast iron skillet grilled with butter or oil. Here’s one sandwich I made recently that took little effort but was a total pleasure to eat.

Bacon Bourbon BBQ Sandwich

  • Bread of your choice
  • Four slices of cooked bacon, preferably thick cut
  • Stubb’s Hickory Bourbon Barb-B-Q sauce (or any other interesting BBQ sauce you find out there)
  • Two to four slices of cheese of pepper jack cheese
  • Spinach (small handful)
  • Garlic salt

Heat up your pan on medium. Toast the bread on one side, flip and toast the other side in some butter or oil. While the second side is toasting, put one to two slices of cheese on each slice of bread to melt. Sprinkle garlic salt on both slices. Then tear up your spinach into bite sized pieces and put it on one slice followed by the bacon. You can chop the bacon or leave it as full slices. On the other slice of bread with melted cheese gently spread a layer of the bourbon BBQ sauce. Once the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty (don’t be like me from the photo and kind of burn it. Oops!), place the saucy slice on top of the bacon and spinach slice, press together. Remove from the heat, cut in half (or not, live dangerously!), say “I’m a badass bitch,” and enjoy!

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

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