Figuring out what to serve at your birthday party is always a pain in the ass. Do you just buy a shit-ton of empanadas and hope for the best? Keep things frugal and pass out bowls of broken potato chips or those tiny (and addictive) palitos salados? Anytime you’re hosting a crowd, the anxiety surrounding the issue of food takes precedent. Which is why my new hero is José Luis Ruiz, owner of the Santa Bárbara bakery in Hurlingham, who made a 14-foot-long milanesa sandwich to serve at his daughter Lucía’s most recent birthday celebration.
That’s right. This actually happened. And now I can’t stop thinking about anything but this. But how did the idea even come to be? Speaking with Clarín, José said it started out when his son and grandson baked a loaf of bread that was a meter long “to share a big sandwich between the two.” But how – and where – do they bake it? A wood-burning oven that’s more than 24 feet long (7.4 meters if you’re feeling #metric). And what about the baking pan? “The loaf is prepared in a long, narrow mold that I found one day on the street and threw into the back of my truck in case I needed it for something one day,” José said. “A few days later, a woman came to the bakery and said she needed a big loaf of bread, which is when I started using it.”
So, what happened next? Essentially, big-ass bread from the bakery in Hurlingham went viral. Everything started to take on large-scale perspective; the sky truly was the limit. The loaves kept getting bigger – 1.5 meters, 2 meters – in order to satisfy the new influx of orders from clients with big families that wanted an easy way to ensure everyone was fed. But nothing could prepare them for what was just on the horizon, the loaf that would change everything.
Lucía is José’s daughter and was preparing to organize her annual birthday celebration where she expected 40 guests. At first, “she wasn’t sure if she wanted to serve the usual sandwiches, pizza, or empanadas, or go the route of the mega-sandwich,” he recalls. Finally, on Sunday, August 11 – a day most of us remembered as the PASO primaries that rocked Argentina’s political stage, but will now be canonized in every history book as the day of the mega milanesa – the 14-foot-long sandwich was unveiled to the world. It was made up of more than 10 beef and chicken milanesas as well as a whole lot of lettuce and tomato (it’s important to eat your vegetables, you know).
After accomplishing such an incredible feat, is that it? Barely. “We’re going for more,” José said. “We’re thinking about baking a 6-meter-long loaf (um, that’s nearly 20 feet) to share with the entire neighborhood. We want them to try it and tell us what they think. Ideally we’d do it on a sunny day when it’s not too cold, because we want everyone to join us outside, since it’s easier to serve that way.”