We made the first World’s Biggest BLT at the Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival in 2003.
It was timed to coincide with the publication of The BLT Cookbook. At about 14,976 square inches, it would be the World’s Biggest BLT ever made. However, there is no official Guiness record for BLTs and we did not complete the paperwork necessary to establish a new category. Since then, we have constructed three others, one larger, two smaller. We also know of two others that attempted to beat our record. One didn’t; one did, though I’m pretty certain none were as delicious as ours. Others seem to concentrate on size; we concentrated on ingredients, taste, and beauty, along with size.
For that first one, chef Evelyn Cheatham of Worth Our Weight Culinary Apprenticeship Program pulled together a team of several dozen volunteers.
The night before the festival, we cooked the bacon donated by Niman Ranch at the Brickyard Culinary Center of Santa Rosa Junior College, where Evelyn and I both were teaching at the time. The next morning, we sliced the tomatoes, filled bowls with mayonnaise and organized ingredients in a barn on the edge of the festival grounds that K-J provided. When all of the ingredients were ready, we gathered into 13 teams and walked the length of the festival, lead by the Mayo Queen, the Hot Frittata Band, three dancing salt crystals, two tomatoes and a head of lettuce. With all the volunteers in their World’s Biggest BLT Staff t-shirts, it was a grand procession.
Little boxes of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt were at each station, along with a pepper grinder, a rubber spatula and a bread knife. Teams organized their ingredients and when the Mayo Queen dropped her golden spatula, the slathering began. It took about 15 minutes to assemble the sandwich.
After the photographers were finished, we cut the sandwich into slices, sold each slice for $3.50 and donated the money to Evelyn’s program.
From the the beginning, The BLT Cookbook and the World’s Biggest BLT attracted tremendous interest from the press. I appeared on the Today show and a number of other local and national programs during the book’s launch. Years after publication, I still get requests for interviews. On one hand, reporters and reviewers seem astonished that someone could write an entire book on the subject. On the other hand, as soon as they read it, they get it. Not one reviewer has found my passion for the irresistible combination of crisp bacon, voluptuous mayonnaise, juicy tomatoes, refreshing lettuce and fragrant toasted bread over the top, accusations that have been leveled at some of my other projects. But with the BLT, everyone just seems to want one. NOW.
In April, 2016, thirteen years after the book’s publication, it was featured on the TV show Jeopardy!, under the category Sandwiches.
The contestant who chose Sandwiches for $300 did not offer the question but another contestant did. “What is a BLT,” he shouted quickly. Moments later, my Facebook page lit up with people telling me I was on Jeopardy! (No, I’m home, I responded, not understanding what was happening.) and seconds later the emails began pouring in. Soon after, I discovered that The BLT Cookbook has its own Wikipedia page.