By Stephanie Smith
Since last June, a young woman has attracted attention from culinary world icons such as Emeril Lagasse, Michael White and Ken Friedman with 300sandwiches.com, a beautifully photographed blog that documents her quest to woo her boyfriend with bread-and-meat creations. We now reveal that the woman behind the blog is our very own Page Six senior reporter, STEPHANIE SMITH. Here, she tells her story — and shares some recipes.
My boyfriend, Eric, is the gourmet cook in our relationship, but he’d always want me to make him a sandwich.
Each morning, he would ask, “Honey, how long you have been awake?”
“About 15 minutes,” I’d reply.
“You’ve been up for 15 minutes and you haven’t made me a sandwich?”
To him, sandwiches are like kisses or hugs. Or sex. “Sandwiches are love,” he says. “Especially when you make them. You can’t get a sandwich with love from the deli.”
One lazy summer afternoon just over a year ago, I finally gave in. I assembled turkey and Swiss on toasted wheat bread. I spread Dijon mustard generously on both bread slices, and I made sure the lettuce was perfectly in line with the neatly stacked turkey slices.
Eric devoured the sandwich as if it were a five-star meal, diving in with large, eager bites. “Babes, this is delicious!” he exclaimed.
Stephanie with her boyfriend, Eric Schulte.
As he finished that last bite, he made an unexpected declaration of how much he loved me and that sandwich: “Honey, you’re 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring!”
Was our happily ever after as simple as making him a few sandwiches?
Our relationship has always centered on food. We met at a restaurant in Chelsea two years ago when a friend I was dining with spotted an Alexander Skarsgård look-alike. An introduction was made, and I found out he’s a computer programmer, a Taurus (or as he says, “What’s that sign for people who don’t believe in astrology?”), obsessed with “Star Wars” and a very good cook.
On our second date, he cooked me dinner — tuna tartare and fresh scallops on a tomato compote. More delicious meals, nearly all of them cooked by him, followed, and soon we were dating seriously. The fact that he could make a perfect filet mignon, not just order one in a steakhouse, was a big turn-on.
A year ago, we moved in together to a sleek place in Brooklyn. We’ve met each other’s parents, traveled internationally without strangling each other and successfully hosted many a dinner party.
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Things were moving at a natural pace, but I wondered what it would take for him to propose. I’m in my mid-30s, and my parents have been happily married for more than 35 years. I have always valued the commitment and dedication it takes to get married and stay married. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d like to raise a family with someone who feels likewise.
Maybe I needed to show him I could cook to prove that I am wife material. If he wanted 300 sandwiches, I’d give him 300 sandwiches — and I’d blog about it.
I bought the 300sandwiches.com domain name and a Nikon DSLR. I perused tons of recipe sites and cookbooks for sandwich ideas. I asked friends for suggestions, but some, especially my single friends, were less than supportive of the idea.
“How ‘Stepford Wives’ of you!” said one single gal whose kitchen was used for shoe storage.
Another, a hard-working C-suite banking executive, also objected. “It’s not 1950!” she exclaimed. “It’s chauvinistic! He’s saying, ‘Cook for me, woman, and maybe I’ll make you my wife.’”
My own mother was doubtful. “Honey, can you even cook?” she asked.
“No, but I’ll learn!” I argued.
The “Substitute for Tomatoes” Turkey Pear Club Sandwich.
I started with the easy things. My second sandwich after the turkey and Swiss was a two-second ice-cream sandwich constructed from Anna’s ginger thin cookies and blackberry currant ice cream. My early thinking was quantity, not quality.
Ten sandwiches or so in, I did the math. Three sandwiches a week, times four weeks a month, times 12 months a year, meant I wouldn’t be done until I was deep into my 30s. How would I finish 300 sandwiches in time for us to get engaged, married and have babies before I exited my childbearing years?
My mother was the voice of reason. “Relationships are a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “Take it one sandwich at a time.”
I made sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. I made sandwiches to get myself out of the doghouse — like No. 67, a scrambled egg, smoked salmon and chive creation that combined some of Eric’s favorite things to make up for my being 45 minutes late for dinner the night before.
Even after covering movie premieres or concerts for Page Six, I found myself stumbling into the kitchen to make Eric a sandwich while I still had on my high heels and party dress.
Making all of these sammies, I’ve learned how much Eric loves sharing cooking with me. He enjoys going to the grocery store with me, picking out ingredients and planning dinners. Though I still want to get engaged and get married and live happily ever after, I’ve also put less pressure on the race to the 300th sandwich and I’m enjoying the cooking experience with Eric.
Today, I’ve made and blogged about 176 sandwiches. Over the months, my creations have grown more complex — lobster rolls, bánh mìs, pulled pork. No matter what’s on the menu, Eric smiles and says thank you. He’s just happy I cook for him at all.
“You women read all these magazines to get advice on how to keep a man, and it’s so easy,” he says. “We’re not complex. Just do something nice for us. Like make a sandwich.”