The Connection. Okay. There isn’t really a huge connection here. But this sandwich is good enough to warrant a post all by its lonesome. So go on and make it and eat it, and I really think that by the time you’re done you won’t really care that it had nothing to do with Zadie Smith’s NW anymore. Yes, it is that good. Possibly better.
The Best Breakfast Sandwich Ever
2 slices sour dough bread (or bread of choice)
2 strips of bacon
Cheddar cheese, sliced thin (enough for two pieces of bread)
Salt and pepper
This is barely a recipe. It’s more of a suggestion that you combine all the best things in the world (avocado, cheese, over-easy fried eggs, and [obviously] bacon), and eat them for breakfast. But for the sake of appearances, here’s what you do:
Start by frying the bacon. This will take the longest, and it doesn’t really need to stay hot. The secret to good bacon is to fry it just a little longer than you think you should, until it’s crispy and full of flavor. (Also, I say two strips, but that does not include the three or four or eight pieces you’ll probably want to eat as a side.)
While frying the bacon, layer the cheese on both pieces of bread and toast until just melted. Slice the avocado into thin strips and salt. After everything else is ready, heat a pat of butter in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat, then carefully crack in two eggs. Wait patiently until the white is solid before flipping. Wait about fifteen seconds, then gently spatula the eggs onto the bread. Layer the avocado next, then the bacon, and carefully cut in two. For reasons of health, this sandwich is best shared. But a dedicated soul could probably handle the whole thing.
“Sometimes, one wants to have the illusion that one is making ones own life, out of ones own resources.”
The Plot. A look at the lives of four Londoners from Caldwell, a neighborhood in northwest (NW) London, right as they have toppled over into adulthood. Smith explores the choices and identities of each character, and how they have been shaped by their roots, their city, and their choices.
Why you should read it. I thought I was going to like this book more than I did. I’m usually a little wary of using dialect and stream of consciousness in regular old novels. If you’re Faulkner or Joyce, you probably get a free pass, but otherwise I start questioning motives. This book dives into both with no sign of embarrassment.
But once I got over that, I started enjoying the book. It’s a great portrait of a grittier corner of London than I’m used to seeing, full of small details and a rich cast of characters. The highlight of the book is the friendship between the two focal characters, who were friends from childhood. The book takes place at a moment when the relationship has been strained and stretched almost beyond the point of recognition, but through the book you start to see its shape and to understand how both characters arrived where they are. It’s an authentic and well-nuanced relationship, and it achieves what much good writing attempts: it is detailed enough to be believable and interesting, yet universal enough for everyone to relate to.
The end of the book marks a turning point in this relationship that made me just a touch uplifted and a bit thoughtful about the trajectories of my own friendships. I didn’t love every page, but by the end I was glad to have read it.