A dying art - the toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich.

The secret to the perfect toasted sandwich is in the choice and melding of the ingredients.

Firstly you need white bread, Tip Top would be my recommendation, Kraft Singles, thinly sliced tomato and generic ham. Once the correct ingredients are assembled the cooking process can begin. A delicate matter. Great skill and care is needed to ensure that the cheese melts, the tomato cooks, or is at least hot and that the ham takes on the slight odour of bacon and the bread is toasted but not burnt. Salt and pepper should be lavishly and lovingly coating the cheese. Margarine or if you're somewhere a tad classy, butter, should soak the top of your sandwich. Oh, and it imperative that the first bite should burn the roof of your month.

And so the quest for the perfect sandwich begins ...

Day one

'You only have focaccia, OK, thanks anyway.'

Day two

'Sorry what was that, you can't toast ham, cheese and tomato together, has to be either cheese and tomato or ham and cheese. OK thanks anyway.'

And so it goes on. The focaccia sandwich with sundried tomatoes, marinated octopus and eight different varieties of lettuce seems to have taken over. But I ask you, who wants to eat a sandwich that requires a knife and fork; that inadvertently spills all over your plate and your clothes. I'm starting to get the feeling that I will have to head on to the Hume highway to get away from herb bagels and focaccia's.

But there is hope. I have discovered in my travels, various sandwich shops around Melbourne were you can get pretty damn good toasted sandwiches. El Fresco Dolci, in Lygon court in Carlton, Black Cat (since closed)on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy (in the case of the toasted sandwich they have omitted the lashings of grated carrot and beetrot, thank God), The Universita in Lygon Street Carlton and Greasy Joe's in St Kilda. I would also recommend most old fashioned cafes with the magnetic letter menus. One last word of warning if the person who is serving you starts listing the 38 different types of bread available you could be in trouble.

Katherine Knox

© Katherine Knox 1998