I Don’t Understand Why Everyone Loves Pub Subs so Much
by Austin L. Ray
By the time you’re holding this issue in your hands, I’ll be celebrating my 13th summer in the South. I moved down here from the Midwest in 2005 and quickly fell in love on so many levels—with the weather, the rap music, a gang of ride-or-die pals, a woman who I eventually married and had a child with, the food, the beer, the just about everything—while coming to the realization that I didn’t need to live in New York to make a living as a writer.
There’s a certain scrappy pride to living down here, one that may have welled up in you as you were reading that first paragraph. But I would argue that this pride is especially intense in my homebase of Atlanta. If you don’t like a thing that we like, there’s a decent enough chance we’ll charm you into it eventually. Or you’ll at least learn to respect it. I’ve certainly experienced that as a Midwestern expat.
But one thing that’s always confused me is the Publix deli sub. I can already see your hackles raising, and listen, those sandwiches are fine. I’ve enjoyed more than my share. They’re almost never bad! But that’s about the best praise I can offer. I needed to figure out why Southerners in particular care so much about the Pub Sub. So I did what any good writer does when they need attention to make it through another day are trying to solve a gnarly puzzle: I asked Twitter.
Reader, the praise was as fast and furious as Ludacris starring alongside Vin Diesel.
“They are the greatest of God’s gifts to mankind,” one Southern-bred man who now lives in Los Angeles as a TV writer quickly responded. “No hyperbole, the chicken tender sub is the best sub on the market,” a golfer replied. The chicken tenders are a huge hit, apparently, as another writer added: “I’m telling you, chicken tenders #PubSub with mayo and spicy mustard. If you want to cheer me up, it’s foolproof.”
Others tweeted tips (Follow @PubSubs_on_sale on Twitter! The deli employees will scoop out the bread for you!), illicit memories (They’re great for sneaking into theaters!) and lovely animal-based anecdotes (My dog stole half of a #PubSub out of my hand once on vacation!). There was at least one fully-unnecessary-but-nevertheless-delightfully-passionate announcement (I got one in the fridge!). It was a wild, entertaining, and frankly kind of exhausting 18 or so hours on Twitter Dot Com.
But why? Why does this sandwich resonate so hard with Southerners? Amidst all the suggestions and tales and weird moments where I watched people from different groups of my life come together to type at each other about Pub Subs, I realized it a certain comfort. There’s an accessibility to this sandwich. The fact that they’re so cheap and easy to rally around? Not enough popular meals can claim that these days. They feel like home.
“They are suburban soul food,”a creative strategist and comedy improviser tweeted at one point. “I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. You can just feel when they are needed and know what your order is before the counter.”