During a short visit to Cape Town a friend described her first encounter with the Gatsby sandwich. Cape Town’s answer to the Philadelphia’s Philly Cheese Steak sandwich, Ho Chi Mihn’s Banh Mi and our own rather doleful Schnitzel Brötchen.
And so, convinced by her praises, I started the quest to find the great Gatsby. Like all other epic journeys, this one was filled with anticipation, confusion, frustration and slip-ups of not-so-modest proportions.
We persisted through rain and sun. In Roeland Street we got lost. Hopelessly lost. A visit to the Bo-Kaap and Atlas Trading – Cape Town’s oldest spice shop- only fueled our persistence and determination. We barely found the time to attend a wedding.
Monday brought the breakthrough: The Golden Dish, Shop 1, Block 1, Gatesville Shopping Centre, Athlone. To get there, we had to take the Klipfontein Road from the city centre and drive for a long time until we arrived at number 341. And there, on the right hand side we found the family shop with claims that they are “mom’s only competition”.
We skipped most of the menu: the bunny chows (one of which is called the Patty Bunny), the Salomies, and the gorgeously delectable Cape Malay staples such as koesusters, dhaltjies, and samoosas.
It was on the last page that we found what brought us here. Twenty-six varieties of the Gatsby.
Legend has it that Rasheed Pandy, a fish and chip shop owner from Athlone, invented the Gatsby sandwich to feed laborers at the end of a day when he had no fish left. The year was 1976 and at a movie theater close by, the third release of the filmed version of F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, was showing and so the sandwich acquired the name of the main character Jay Gatsby by means of proximity and convenience.
It was a sandwich designed to feed many people and do so very cheaply. Traditionally it consisted of a large, soft baguette-like loaf of bread cut lengthwise to form a cavity. The cavity was layered with lettuce leaves; slap tjips, and a meat or polony topping. Sounds odd, but without the slap tjips, it is no Gatsby.
We decided on the Masala Steak Full House Gatsby and bought two. Why, I am not sure. Together they had the weight of a hefty toddler.
Over dinner we became drawn into ourselves – digging deeper through bread and steak and chips and cheese to reach fulfillment. Until we could dig no more. My two dinner companions barely made it to the living room where they, like F Scott Fitzgerald’s two characters, Daisy and Jordan, “… lay upon an enormous couch weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans”. It was finally over.