James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

The Real Great Gatsby is a Sandwich the Size of a Baby Goat

The Real Great Gatsby is a Sandwich the Size of a Baby Goat

A Gatsby in Cape Town

In my fourth month of living in Cape Town, I wake up with my 40th hangover. It has been a struggle to feel at home in this city. Cape Town is gorgeous in postcards but sprawling, industrial, and treeless on the ground. Diverse in theory, it’s also divided, by electric security fences and the less tangible, apartheid-era designations of ethnic suburbs.

I’ve visited drinking holes from the townships to the CBD. Some hours talking politics in a tiki bar by the railroad tracks the night before has left me physically wrecked and further disillusioned.

Observatory, where I live, is a tensely gentrifying district, long considered one of Cape Town’s most bohemian suburbs. These days, it has fifteen identical coffee shops. But this morning I don’t want another vegan muffin. I want a Gatsby.

The Gatsby is a legendary sandwich the size of a baby goat. It was invented decades ago in the Cape Flats—a low-lying  strip of land to which tens of thousands of non-whites were forcibly moved from Cape Town neighborhoods—when a fish-and-chip shop owner offered to feed some day workers with whatever was lying around. Since then, the Gatsby has gone from a compilation of fried recyclables to a proudly indulgent mega-sandwich of the wildest ingredients. Sometimes that’s just polony, a fluorescent lunchmeat. Sometimes the excess of the day is squid.

For my search, I head to Ottery suburb, driving through miles of shacks and concrete to Farm Stall Take-Aways. It does look like a barn with a dirt parking lot, but this is where I’m told I’ll get a particularly glorious Gatsby. The Malay family that runs Farm Stall has pioneered a masala-ized version with steak, cheese, and fried eggs. I opt for that; my girlfriend opts for a bite. Neloy, the youngest son of the Farm Stall clan, takes our order. All three fry cooks get to work, side-by-side.

I chat to two locals who have orderd a Vienna sausage Gatsby. They boast that together, they will finish it in one sitting. How? They hesitate, then: “Bru, you just have to fucking go for it,” they say, laughing and making comical clawing motions with their hands.

Neloy eventually brings out my Gatsby, and we peel back the reams of paper bundling it. Liquefied chips and onions spill out, and we immerse ourselves with the greed of the hungover. Masala spice soon covers our forearms. Hunched like sadistic surgeons, we pass the steak layer, then discover a fried egg.

An hour later, I am lying flat on the dirty beach outside the township. Our sandwich’s scattered remains mock me from the paper sack.

Farm Stall Take-Aways
52 Ottery Road
Cape Town

Up Next

A Great Sandwich is the Best Friend You’ll Ever Make

Featured City Guides