And The Winning Taste Of Summer Is ...

Jul 27, 2013
Originally published on July 29, 2013 12:01 pm

The voting is finished. The taste test is done. The verdict is in: Marti Olesen has won All Things Considered's Taste of Summer contest with her recipe for Diane's Dad's Summer Sandwich.

I know not everybody will agree with my decision. Frankly, in my book, all three finalists are winners. Judging them was tricky business because so often it was like comparing apples, oranges and kumquats.

Each story had its own merits. Each recipe was good and had its vocal supporters.

Susan Jones' Strawberry Trifle story was charming and fantastic. That a non-cook's "bring a dish" anxiety was extinguished by serendipity, when a scrap of paper blowing in the wind on recycling day caught her attention, is appealing for anyone who's struggled in the kitchen.

Patricia Mulvey's story was about how her Ensenada Slaw came out of a crazy trip from hell to Mexico. I think "Maximo's Auto Repair and Beauty Supply Shop" will be burned in my brain for the rest of my life. Screwball comedy — when it happens off-screen — is also very, very appealing, and Pat is an expressive storyteller, for sure.

But Marti Olesen's story was stealthy. On the surface, it was simple: She hears about a recipe with ingredients that seem odd together, she tries it, she doesn't like it. But then she learns the secret: It's in the layering. She tries it again and loves it so much she plants a garden to better enjoy this summer sandwich. Her dedication to this thing that didn't seem like it would taste all that good is also appealing.

At our NPR headquarters, I made each recipe for a Taste of Summer taste test. They were all easy to do, included seasonal ingredients and earned a summer cook's vote of gratitude for not requiring an oven or a stove top.

But here's one thing that gave the summer sandwich an edge: It has high shareability, in that it's a recipe people really, really want to share.

Over and over, pro-sandwich listeners wrote in along these lines: "I couldn't believe this sandwich, with its white cheddar cheese, tomato, cucumber, onion and crunchy peanut butter combo, could possibly be that good. So I made it. I loved it. I loved it so much I made another. I made my kids try it. They loved it. I cannot wait to make it again."

This high shareability quotient was driven home during our taste test.

While not everybody sampling was Team Sandwich, everybody who was Team Sandwich was emphatically and surprisingly Team Sandwich, and their enthusiasm was infectious. You could practically hear the buzz around the table as people not involved with the taste test were pulled in to try the sandwich. As engineer Stu Rushfield, who'd heard all the Taste of Summer stories, put it: "I wouldn't say no to any of these recipes. But the one I'd make again is the sandwich. Because it's just so strange. And so good."

Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest. It was a lot of fun. I'm off to make another sandwich now. The crunchy peanut butter really does make it.

Melissa Gray is the producer of All Things Considered's Found Recipes series.

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And now, the big reveal, more anxiously awaited than the royal baby. It's the winner of our Taste of Summer Found Recipes contest. And joining me now is the judge of that contest, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED producer Melissa Gray, who's in charge of all of our Found Recipes items. Welcome back to talk with us about the three finalists and the winner of Found Recipes.

MELISSA GRAY, BYLINE: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: You've been thinking about this a lot?

GRAY: I have been. I've had a lot of sleepless afternoons.


SIEGEL: Great responsibility. Let's go over the three finalists. First, listener Susan Jones and her strawberry trifle.

GRAY: Right. She told us about her anxiety over bringing a dish to a fund-raiser and not being a good cook. But then this recipe came to her literally on a breeze during recycling day.

SIEGEL: Next, listener Patricia Mulvey and her Ensenada slaw.

GRAY: A wackadoo story if ever there was one, Robert. It involved a trip to Mexico, a rock in the middle of the road, a borrowed car damaged, federales, drug-sniffing dogs and Maximo's auto repair and beauty supply shop, plus ultimately a friend who didn't care whether his car had been trashed as long as his friends were fine.

SIEGEL: And then we heard from listener Marti Olesen talking about a recipe called Diane's Dad's summer sandwich.

GRAY: Yeah. Really odd bird, that sandwich. It came from Marti's friend Diane, and it had thinly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions between white cheddar cheese and crunchy peanut butter. And here's the thing: The sandwich has to be assembled in a particular order for it to work.

SIEGEL: I gather we had a couple of hundred messages from listeners who told us which recipe and story they think should be the taste of summer.

GRAY: We did.

SIEGEL: You arranged a taste test for the staff here. We all could sample the three finalists. So the results?

GRAY: The winner is Marti Olesen and her summer sandwich.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) There she is, Miss America.

SIEGEL: Marti Olesen's summer sandwich. What about the trifle? I mean, it was rich. It was self-indulgent in the way that a summer vacation would be.

GRAY: You're so team trifle.


GRAY: No. You are so completely...

SIEGEL: I was for the strawberry trifle.

GRAY: No. Here's the reason why Marti's sandwich wins. It is ridiculous and delicious. And I ate three of them. The crunchy peanut butter really does make a difference. It's insane.

SIEGEL: Well, as cucumber sandwiches go, it was all right. But the trifle actually was pretty tasty. The other one, the slaw, I thought was completely, you know, slaw.

GRAY: A lot of people like the slaw, Robert.

SIEGEL: I know they did. I'm just giving you my opinion.

GRAY: Well, anyway, it comes down to this: staying power. Diane's Dad's summer sandwich is the one I think most people will want to share with others. And this was borne out by the emails that were sent in. People were saying, you know, I saw this. I heard this. I thought eww. I tried it. It was delicious. And then I made it for someone else, and they thought it was delicious. And I'm going to make another sandwich. And we had the same reaction yesterday. There was a buzz around the table about this sandwich. That is the reason that I pushed it onto the pedestal.

SIEGEL: What buzz was there yesterday around the table?


GRAY: You were in the studio.

SIEGEL: I see.

GRAY: You did not hear the buzz.

SIEGEL: Right. It's a soundproof studio.

GRAY: These are soundproof studios, Robert.

SIEGEL: I couldn't hear the buzz outside. So it's Marti Olesen's recipe and story about Diane's Dad's summer sandwich that trumps even that wild adventure story across the Mexican border and is the winner of our Taste of Summer contest.

GRAY: Yes. Team slaw and team trifle, my condolences, but it's the sandwich.

SIEGEL: Well, thanks to everyone who participated. And, Melissa Gray, thanks a lot to you.

GRAY: You're very welcome, Robert.


SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.