Gatsby - Gastro Obscura

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This Cape Town sandwich is as extravagant as a certain literary character.

One of Cape Town’s most decadent sandwich offerings, the Gatsby, takes its name from a certain F. Scott Fitzgerald character known for extravagance and excess.

Given Jay Gatsby’s affection for living in East Egg, one might think the Gatsby contains eggs. Not quite. The sandwich is said to have been born in 1976, at a fish-and-chip shop in Cape Town’s Athlone neighborhood. After the owner, Rashaad Pandy, hired four people to help him clean up a piece of property, Pandy didn’t have anything substantial to feed them. So he took a smattering of ingredients—including polony (bologna), slap chips (french fries), and achar (a type of pickle)—put them on a Portuguese roll, and cut the sandwich into four pieces.

The workers loved Pandy’s creation, and one man named Froggie exclaimed, after taking a bite: “That’s a Gatsby smash!” Recounting this story in 2013, Pandy said that Froggie had probably just seen the Robert Redford film The Great Gatsby. Froggie meant that the sandwich was “a massive hit.” But it’s also an apt shorthand for something that, like Jay Gatsby, oozes indulgence. 

The next day, Pandy sold Gatsbys at his store, and customers loved them as much as Froggie. The Gatsby has become synonymous with the end of a night out on Cape Town. These days, a Gatsby can contain anything of the fried and salty variety: calamari, cod, or even a mountain of polony, Vienna sausage, and Russian sausage (an order known as the “Full House”).

As was the case when Pandy cut the first Gatsby into four parts, sharing is integral to the Gatsby. It’s usually served on a massive loaf and divvied up. But since the middle piece is the most coveted, it has the potential to start a food fight.

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