Food For Thought: Mario Vs Luigi


Hannah Agpoon

Graphic by Hannah Agpoon.

Gabby Hernandez, Contributing Writer

What is the most intense sibling rivalry of all time? Some might say Cain and Abel — I’d argue for Mario and Luigi. There is no way twins in the same profession would not be competitive. I think this competitiveness transfers over to the menu items at Grinnell’s very own Jay’s Deli. That’s right folks, in this round of philosophical food thought I will mediate the fight between the Mario and Luigi sandwiches. May the favorite child prevail!

At least, that was the mindset I had up until I ordered my food. I didn’t realize until I already paid for it that the primary ingredients of the Mario are bell peppers, pepperoni, and mushrooms. At that moment only one thought was on my mind: I hate mushrooms.

So maybe I went into this contest of brotherly love a little biased. Sure, mushrooms decrease your risk of cancer and help with tummy health, but that doesn’t outweigh their icky texture and lack of flavor. Often, eating mushrooms feels like chewing through rubber. That, in addition to their lack of any intrinsic flavor, will never make the unpleasant experience of eating them desirable. Mario may have been the older of the twins, but he was definitely the underdog in this competition.

My internal mushroom monologue came to a stop once I was handed my sandwiches. Upon squishing the Mario, I was instantly taken back to my comfy pillow (because Grinnell beds could never be that soft). Never before had I felt such doughy sandwich bread. It was a delectable squish. Kneading my sandwich as a cat would, I took a bite of the Mario.

The crunch reverberated through my skull. The bite was superbly fresh and crisp thanks to the bell peppers. The crunch of those perfect peppers made my soul cry tears of pure happiness. Every bite and chew made me believe I was acting in a Kit Kat commercial. (I hope that at least a few of you remember those.) The finished splash of pepperoni as I swallowed my first bite was beautiful. It was the last taste in my mouth, and while I was glad to have been able to experience it, I was sad to see it go. It felt as though the bell peppers were the concert and the pepperoni was the encore.

I took a sip of my French toast latte after I finished the Mario and sat there questioning myself. Do I really hate mushrooms? Was I wrong this whole time? I had a flashback to fall break when my roommate cooked a perfectly balanced and flavorful mushroom cream as a side to beef skewers that I quite literally drooled over. Reflecting on that experience helped me realize that in the framework of the concert metaphor, the mushrooms are the stealthy stage manager that supplies support and structure as needed. The more I pondered the feelings I had towards mushrooms, the further I pushed myself into an identity crisis.

I further suspected bias towards Luigi as soon as I held it with my bare hands. My first thought was, “yummy Luigi.” The Luigi is essentially a pizza on toasted bread. The tastefully toasted beast I had before me featured beautiful grill marks on each side, marinara sauce that spoke to my soul and mozzarella cheese that spoke to my heart despite my lactose intolerance.

During my consumption of the Luigi, it quickly became clear that the lead singer of this sandwich was the cheese. It was melted in a way that only the Platonic ideal of melted mozzarella cheese could be.

Somehow playing bass, drums and keyboards all at the same time was the marinara. How they managed to derive such depth of flavor from singular and sweet sauce is unknown.

After I finished the entirety of the lively Luigi, I was able to account for all members of this rockin’ sandwich band except for one: the pepperoni. The flavor and sound of the pepperoni seemed to have been drowned out by the cheese and sauce. The circularly sliced meat was surreally silent, and the harmony of the sandwich was affected as a whole. The Luigi’s warmth almost made up for the absence of pepperoni flavor. That heat transferred the love and care that went into preparing it directly into my hands, warming me up.

After consuming each brother’s sandwich, I realized that knowing when to eat each is like knowing when to wear a jacket outside. The desire for the Mario is strongest on warmer days when one wants something light, fresh and full of vegetables; the Luigi is most desired on crispy cool days, when its warmth can warm your hands and its flavor can warm your heart. The competitive twins can each have their own time in the spotlight, but for me on this day — even despite the cold temperature and my biases — Mario came out on top.