My senior project began with a sandwich. And no I am not referring to “brain food,” (though who doesn’t enjoy a good meal) but quite literally, a sandwich. “The Last American Pirate Sandwich” to be exact, complete with crab, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pepper, lemon juice packed between two pieces of toasted brioche.
Now you’re probably asking yourself how a sandwich could possibly be the catalyst to a research project, but it’s less ridiculous than you might imagine. The story began this summer, while I was on a road trip with my boyfriend through Virginia. It was one of those sweltering hot July days, where the humidity is so high, that you sweat standing still. My boyfriend drives a beat up Ford pick up truck and his air conditioning had just gone and the heat was so oppressing that even with the windows all the down there was no relief. I was tired of driving so I suggested we take a break and grab a bite to eat in the next small town that we reached. We happened to be driving through the lower Chesapeake area, and came a cross a small restaurant close to the water. It was a typical small town joint, with a generic name and tacky lights hanging along the edge of the roof. The lawn was covered in white patio furniture with big red and blue umbrellas to provide shade. It was full of regulars and the familiar chatter, of “Donna, how are the kids?” and “Bob, did your dog have the puppies yet?” Our waitress was a typical bored 17 year old, decked out in denim shorts and a polo shirt, face caked with make up, eyes thick with black liner. She threw down the menus with an unenthusiastic smile and then thundered off to the aid of an elderly couple. Among the generic house salads, soups and sandwiches was a blurb claiming that the last American pirate had been from that area. They had named the crab sandwich in his honor. Now I’ve always been a huge Johnny Depp fan, and Pirates of the Caribbean to be among my top five, so naturally I was intrigued. When our peppy waitress re-emerged to take our order, I asked her what it was all about. She rolled her eyes and with an uninterested sigh said, “It’s just some local legend. Are you ready to order?”
Perhaps, it’s my closet obsession with pirates, but my first encounter with the last American pirate never left me. At this point I already knew I the topic for my Senior thesis class was Local Virginian History. And so my research began with a sandwich and the legend behind it.