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Mess makes the mater sandwich
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The chefs at fancy restaurants may use thick-sliced bacon, a wedge of lettuce or gourmet bread for a tomato sandwich - but to many locals there is only one way to make the late summer treat.

The traditional 'mater sandwich is made with white bread, mayonnaise and slices of tomato with salt and pepper.

"We live on tomato sandwiches ... I make mine like my mama did 100 years ago when I was living in the country," said Elizabeth Westbrooks, local cook and longtime Gainesville resident. "I do not put my tomatoes in the refrigerator; I like for them to be out in the windowsill somewhere, room temperature."

Although, Westbrooks said she has tweaked the traditional recipe a little in the last few years.

"I just slice them any way I want to, but the main thing I add to mine is a slice of onion and mayonnaise," she said. "I put plenty of mayonnaise, all the way to the edge. I prefer Blue Plate (mayonnaise) when I can afford it, but if I can't afford it I use any kind."

In addition to the slice of onion, Westbrooks uses wheat bread.

"I use the brown bread now because I wised up - it's better for you," she said. "Plenty of salt and pepper but more black pepper because I'm supposed to stay away from salt.

"Back in the day we would have them so soppy, they'd run down your arm and that's when they were so, so good."

Master Gardener Tom Reines, who grows heirloom tomatoes at the Northeast Georgia History Center, said some of his sandwiches are actually more tomato than bread.

"Last year I had one tomato that was two pounds and my wife made us sandwiches and you had to get through the tomato to taste the bread," he said.

Gainesville's Happy Kirkpatrick said she's not much of a cook, but tomato sandwiches still are a mainstay on her menu.

"I use white bread and lots of mayonnaise and salt and pepper," she said. "I don't do anything fancy. I would never mess up a good ole ‘mater sandwich."

Kirkpatrick grew up on Green Street in Gainesville, back when all the stately homes were filled with families instead of offices for lawyers and Realtors. She said everyone grew fresh tomatoes in the backyard; she continued growing them when she lived in the North Hall area.

"So I've always had fresh tomatoes and just love ‘mater sandwiches," Kirkpatrick said.

But if you want to have all the ingredients of the traditional tomato sandwich without the mess, try David White's recipe.

"I cube my tomatoes in a bowl, pour the salt and the pepper to them," he said. "Then take me two good spoonfuls of mayonnaise and I pinch me up two slices of white bread in the bowl and I stir it until it becomes soupy and then you eat it. I ain't letting none of it roll off my elbow, it's staying in the bowl."

Before you finish, he said, it's OK to put your spoon down.

"If you are home and it's private, make sure your hands are clean and wipe that bowl and lick that finger."

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