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  • Bill Chastain

Public Apology to Snacks, No Tomato

Ever since Tom Jones, a.k.a., “Snacks”, challenged me in the Tropicana Field dining room, I’ve tried to remain objective while traveling the world like Caine, seeking an answer to one complex question: Should a Cuban sandwich have tomatoes?

Flash back to that memorable night. Sitting with a group of writers, I minded my own business as I enjoyed the Cuban sandwich I’d bought on the way to work. Snacks examined my dinner and — in between his stand-up routine (which is outstanding if you have had the pleasure of catching it) — took a stance by declaring that Cuban sandwiches don’t have lettuce and tomato.

Cuban sandwich 2I begged to differ. After all, I’d been eating Cuban sandwiches my entire life. Most were of the working man variety, bought from Willie’s on 19th Street near the Port of Tampa. Willie always put tomatoes on his. So I dropped the Tampa card on Snacks. “I should know. I’m from Tampa.”

Snacks pressed the point — not the Cuban — and the debate raged. He later raised the question during the morning radio show he does with Rick Stroud on Tampa’s WDAE 620 AM.

Despite much dialogue and plenty of research, I could not find a clear answer to the question. I mean, some places just put tomatoes on the sandwich while others do not. Clarity finally came Friday afternoon when a waitress at a Miami cafe brought out my Cuban sandwich. There were no tomatoes.

“Did you forget the tomatoes?” I asked.

She answered with a terse reply in Spanish then headed back to the kitchen.

I’ve learned how to count to ten in Spanish thanks to two years of high school Spanish, and I know all the bad words from talking to my favorite Dominican baseball players. In other words, her response did not fall within my range of understanding. Thus, I looked to the man sitting next. Did he have any idea what the waitress had told me?

He nodded: “No tomato.”

To Rick Stroud, I hate to do this, because I’m normally in your corner during your on-air verbal exchanges with Snacks — including Friday’s memorable Steve Geltz debacle. So Rick, I know it’s difficult to hear that Snacks indeed had known the correct answer about a subject, but in this case he did.

Thus, to Snacks, I offer my apology. You were right, buddy. No tomato. You may now tell me to go get my shine box.

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