There’s an old German bakery down in the Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago that my wife and I love to go to. They’ve got great cookies and pretzels, but there’s this breakfast sandwich they make that is incredible. It’s delicious. It’s addictive, and the flavors are perfect. If you’ve ever seen that Birds of Prey movie, biting into a Dinkel’s Bavarian Breakfast Sandwich is an experience akin to what Harley Quinn was raving about.
Unfortunately for my wife and I, we don’t live anywhere near Lakeview. Thus, the Bavarian Breakfast Sandwich is a once-in-a-while treat, when we have the time and energy to make the trek from Gilberts (yeah, it’s a real place way out in the ‘burbs) into the city. And on those days when we do manage to fit a visit to Dinkel’s in our weekend schedule, we sit there right outside, in the car, savoring every damn bite.
But I’m not content to eat like this “once in a while.” I want it more, and to solve this problem, we decided to reconstruct the sandwich at home. In theory, it’s simple. It’s a fried egg on a pretzel roll with ham, swiss cheese, German mustard, and apple butter. That’s it — only 6 ingredients for the Holy Grail of sandwiches! Once constructed, the employees at Dinkel’s Cafe put the sandwich in a panini press before serving it up.
The first time I made this at home, it didn’t taste quite right. I used our George Foreman grill as a stand-in for the panini press, but that wasn’t quite hitting the same feel when we bit into it. We switched out different types of ingredients, and I retooled my approach. I toasted the pretzel roll buns in a frying pan before putting the sandwich together, and while at first I was hesitant to try this approach (as the sandwich is pressed at the bakery), this turned out to be the right move.
We’ve managed to copy our beloved Bavarian Breakfast Sandwich, and it only took a week’s worth of trial and error to hit the same notes and mouth-feel. Now, we can enjoy this “once-in-a-while” treat whenever we feel like it.
I’ll post the recipe at the end, but the process of trying to duplicate this sensation reminded me of something. It reminded me a lot of learning to write, of finding one’s voice when trying to create or build something from nothing.
Within each of us, we all have the tools — or ingredients, if you will — to will our own “Bavarian Breakfast Sandwich” into existence, but we have to play around with these tools before we get it right. We have to try different methods of combining these ingredients, and we need a blueprint to help get us started.
For writers, that blueprint is other writers. It’s the stories we grew up with, the ideas or worlds that stick with us, and the works of art that confound and move us. Writers need to read other writers, and when they’re first experimenting, they need to copycat other writers’ styles before finding their own voice. As a kid, I was introduced to H.P. Lovecraft at a very young age, and some of my earliest writing efforts emulated the “unspeakable horror” style of Lovecraft. But then I was introduced to other writers in different genres — sci-fi, humor, fantasy — and all of these different styles and stories I was fascinated with distilled together and helped me discover my own voice.
The road to finding a voice, like the road to duplicating this sandwich, wasn’t always clear. In order to create a breakfast sandwich that hit me the same as the one we enjoyed in Lakeview, I had to toast the pretzel roll before putting it together — a step that the employees at the cafe didn’t do. It achieved the same final product, but our paths diverged. Writing is no different. When I wanted to write horror, I leaned on writers who inspired me at first. However, to hit the same chills and experiences with my own stories, I had to use different tricks or techniques to get there.
This isn’t necessarily a new idea, but it’s a universal one for anyone who creates. Countless older writers encourage newer ones to read and read often. Any creator needs to look to what inspires them in order to tap into that which lies dormant within themself and birth something new, unique, and amazing unto the world.
It’s part of the road to finding our voices. It’s part of who we are as a civilization, building upon what came before.
Those first few times, when I couldn’t duplicate this silly breakfast sandwich exactly while recreating the same steps I saw in the bakery, I was frustrated. But then I realized, my map to this goal will never be the same as theirs, and that’s what makes my riff on it both similar and distinct. It’s why my writing voice may not work for every genre or every person reading this, but it works for me.
Just Another Writer’s Breakfast Sandwich
1 pretzel roll bun
1 slice of swiss cheese
1 slice of breakfast ham / Krakus ham / your choice
Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard
Slack’s No Sugar Apple Butter
- Cut open your pretzel roll, and butter both ends. Heat a medium-sized frying pan to medium-high. Once hot, set your buttered ends of the bun on the pan, and let fry until toasted brown (about 1 minute or so)
- In a separate frying pan, melt some butter on medium heat. Once butter is melted, crack your egg and let it fry slowly. Prepare your egg to your liking (I prefer medium for this recipe). Salt and pepper to taste.
- After removing your buns from the frying pan, set the heat to low and add your slice of ham. Let this brown just a bit on each side (1-2 minutes).
- Spread apple butter on the bottom slice of your toasted pretzel roll. Spread stone ground mustard on the top slice.
- Place a slice of swiss cheese on top of the apple butter, then add the slice of ham once it’s browned.
- When your egg is done, add it on top of your ham, complete your sandwich, and enjoy!
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