Enjoying every sandwich

When I first tried Vietnamese sandwiches… or rather salad rolls, because the word “sandwich” actually doesn’t even have a Vietnamese equivalent, I didn’t really like them. They had an odd selection of greens in them that made me feel like I was eating something that should be on my lawn, and the pate they put in them seemed so weird and foreign.

But they were convenient, very cheap, and the bread is fresh and delicious, so I kept eating them just from time to time when I wanted a snack but was too lazy to stop at a restaurant or cafe and buy something. I am very particular about who I will buy from though. There are at least 5 bánh mì stands on my block, but I only ever eat at one of them. Because the old woman there knows me. She’s friendly. I’ve given her a rose before. I’ve been buying hamburgers and bánh mì off her for almost two years now, so as soon as she sees me coming she comes out, puts out a chair for me and asks “Bánh mì gà ? Bánh mì thịt ? Hamburger ?” but I’ve stopped buying hamburgers. They’re not as healthy. I’m trying to lose weight, and a nice salad roll with a little meat on it is much better for me than a greasy fried meat patty on a bun, and I quickly realised I fucking LOVE them.

So these days it’s one of my greatest pleasures in life to finally drag myself out of the house by about 4pm, and head on down the road in a loop, passing her stall and cheerily ordering either bánh mì thịt, bánh mì gà, or frequently, one of each and then I will happily tear into one and nom on it as I walk down the street whistling quietly and enjoying my delicious Vietnamese salad and meat roll as I make my way to the street bar where I stop for an hour or two before I go home to spend time with my girlfriend.

But that two minutes after I leave the lady’s bánh mì stall and walk the 500 meters down Bui Vien street in the afternoon sun munching on a delicious Vietnamese roll with chicken or pork on it is one of the greatest pleasures of my entire day (other than seeing my beautiful girlfriend). It puts me in such a good mood. Why go to some cafe and spend 55,000 dong on some unhealthy as shit pizza baguette when I could get a nice fresh chicken salad baguette for only 15,000 and take it to the pub with me and enjoy it with a cold beer ?

That little routine is one of my favourite things about living in Saigon now. It almost represents Saigon life to me here. Leaving my house to get a couple of meat and salad baguettes to eat on my way to a street bar where I see my friends every day is the very reason I got a tattoo that says “Saigon Đẹp Lắm”. Because Saigon IS beautiful, but not just in terms of natural beauty. It’s the lifestyle. It’s grabbing a 70 cent chicken salad baguette and nomming on it over a 25 cent pint of beer in the late afternoon sun.

Warren Zevon said a famous thing before he died when his good friend David Letterman asked if he had any words to say about life in light of his impending death. He said “Enjoy every sandwich”.

You know what ? I do, Warren. I do.

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