A REFERENCE in this space Monday to the hideous treatment of Jewish-style corned beef by a customer at Attman's pretty much ignited a howling cringe-fest in my circles.
Friends and colleagues wrote, called and accosted me about the woman from northern Baltimore County who drove to Lombard Street last week to get an Attman's Deli fix, only to order her three corned-beef sandwiches on white bread.
Some people think Attman's should have its license yanked for even serving the corned beef that way.
The very idea struck most of the rational people I know as sacrilege. Corned beef on anything but rye -- pumpernickel is allowed, but you need rabbinical dispensation -- is a violation of God's law. This is not a question of taste or of personal preference, or even of human tradition. We are talking divine decree here. You can look it up -- in the Dead Sea Scrolls: "Corned beef, rye, mustard."
Corned beef, rye, mustard. Four little words. You don't need anything else, not even prepositions.
Surprisingly, the woman who placed this order stepped forward to identify herself and confirm the report of three "corned beefs on white."
"I am the nameless young woman mentioned in the article who got three corned beef sandwiches on white bread," wrote Denise Tausendschoen in an e-mail to this columnist. "I would have had them put mayonnaise on them but I had to take the sandwiches home to my family and I thought the mayonnaise would spoil."
Let's stop right here.
Did you catch that?
Rewind the tape.
Let me repeat the key phrase: "I would have had them put mayonnaise on them but ... "
Corned beef -- Attman's famous, steamy-hot corned beef -- served on white bread with mayonnaise.
You got that?
Attman's corned beef treated like ... like tuna fish!
Like day-old Thanksgiving turkey!
Attman's corned beef treated with Wite-Out!
"If this turns your stomach, don't worry, it turns mine, too," Ms. Tausendschoen reassures us. "I don't eat mayonnaise, but my mother and brother do."
This isn't about mayonnaise. There's nothing wrong with mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is a wonderful thing -- in the right place at the right moment.
But Attman's corned beef isn't one of them.
Look, I'm from the to-each-his-own school. I'm a live-and-let-live kinda guy.
I don't go around sniffing and sneering at wines -- I'll drink Riunite if it's cold and I've been drinking something else for a while -- and making comments about what people eat.
(OK, I admit to coming close to violating this rule Sunday at a bull-and-oyster roast. I saw a guy put a huge schmear of yellow mustard on a nicely grilled Italian sausage and it made me scowl. Treating a grilled Italian like a hot dog or kielbasa -- it's not something I would do. A pile of hot, softened onions and peppers is about all you need with a grilled Italian.)
But this business about corned beef on white bread -- that's a genuine violation of an important law of the universe.
I didn't know this kind of thing went on. But I'm glad we found out about it. Somebody needs to stand up, face these people who want to wrap fine corned beef in white dough and emulsified eggs, and say: "Stop, you're grossing us out!"
Next thing you know, these people will be trimming the crust off the white bread and eating corned beef sandwiches with tomato aspic.
Mixed views on sausage
Several people have told me they were appalled by "corned beef on white with mayo." However, the reviews were mixed about the grilled Italian sausage with mustard.
A curious doctor in a local emergency room conducted an informal poll of her staff yesterday and found that one would eat a grilled Italian with mustard and ketchup, cheese and onions; two would eat it with mustard and mayo; two with ketchup and mayo; and two would eat it with just mustard.
"I think these are not worldly eaters," says the doc, being kind.
She then stated her preference -- same as mine.
"I would smother it with peppers, onions. I might also have it plain. Only one staff member said he would eat it as we would. Very sad ...
"Gotta go now. We're getting a cardiac case, somebody in heart block ... ."