Happy Birthday, MR.SUB!

MR.SUB recently announced a startling fact – 2018 marks the company’s 50th anniversary! They opened their first store in 1968 – the year Pierre Trudeau was first elected, the Rolling Stones released “Jumping Jack Flash” and my sweet baby parents were still in elementary school with no idea that their daughter would one day be sponsored to write about sandwiches on the internet. MR.SUB brings up warm memories for a lot of Canadians, myself included, so I was happy to partner with them in a post about this historic brand.

Hungry in Calgary | MR.SUB Club
Look at that ripe tomato! But please disregard the extra Ranch I had them slather all over my banana peppers…

As some of you already know, I was diagnosed with cancer as a teen and spent a lot of time in treatment at the fantastic Stollery Children’s Hospital. After recovering from a bad stretch when I was only able to “eat” through an IV line in my arm (yum?), every meal had to pack a nutritional punch. At the risk of dating myself, this was nearly 15 years ago when hospital cafeteria offerings ranged between salty pastas, bland salads and greasy fries or nuggets. I remember well that the most appealing option for my weakened appetite was the unassuming MR.SUB kiosk in the hospital’s lobby.

Hungry in Calgary | MR.SUB Sandwiches
My new fave – Canadian Club – definitely stacks up against the classic turkey of my youth!

As the weeks went by and I grew stronger and hungrier, there was nothing I looked forward to more between appointments than a turkey sub with cheese, yellow mustard, veggies and extra cucumber. In those scary times, I was still able to be a normal kid eating a satisfying sandwich before heading back upstairs to get poked with more needles. It was also great news for my mom that she didn’t have to resort to a cheeseburger or a sodium-packed soup every day for the weeks we spent waiting around the hospital.

Hungry in Calgary | MR.SUB Turkey
My poor neighbours must be unbearably jealous when they see me lounging on the balcony with various subs all summer.

It’s fascinating how much tastes have changed even since the early 2000’s. Consumers expect fresher and more ethically sourced ingredients, more diverse flavours as well as vegan and gluten-free options. You don’t have to look far to see the explosion of popularity enjoyed by internationally-inspired franchises touting healthier choices on their mandatory nutrition disclosures. With this increased awareness of global health issues, there have also come some controversies in the food industry. As a result, food writers find ourselves with more important trends to monitor than simply where to get the most underrated brunch in Calgary

Because of all this, I was particularly interested in MR.SUB’s most recent change, which they announced for their 50th anniversary. MR.SUB will be the first National sub sandwich restaurant in the quick service restaurant industry in Canada to serve meats raised without antibiotics (“RWA”). To be clear, I’m aware that producers should definitely treat sick animals with antibiotics as needed (aka “therapeutic” use). Unfortunately, many herds are routinely dosed with antibiotics as a “non-therapeutic” measure to promote growth and reduce their feed costs. Treating healthy animals this way leads to increases in antibiotic-resistant strains of deadly bugs like E. coli, which can make their way into the human food chain. (Here’s an interesting study for further reading.)

Hungry in Calgary | MR.SUB Matthias Zomer
Photo by Matthias Zomer

As someone still battling an apparently drug-resistant bug I brought home from my trip to Asia back in April, I appreciate any initiatives that could result in producers stopping this controversial practice. I was impressed to learn that as of now, animals treated with antibiotics any time from birth to harvest are not allowed into the production stream that supplies ham, turkey, salami or luncheon meat for MR.SUB.

Hungry in Calgary | MR.SUB Sun Club
Heavenly ham, turkey and bacon sub, best enjoyed with a view of the Calgary Tower!

I’ve come a long way from hastily eating my MR.SUB lunches hunched over a cafeteria table in a busy hospital. (For starters, I literally eat my subs off the platinum-rimmed plates we received as a wedding gift. I’m fancy!) Because of nutritional, ethical and environmental concerns, Matt and I are definitely eating less meat than we used to (and who isn’t trying to decrease their carb intake these days?), but I still want a hearty sandwich from time to time. When I do grab a sub on my way to a picnic by Elbow Falls or a pigeon-watching dinner on my downtown condo balcony, I’m so happy to have the option to stop contributing to an industry practice known to be endangering our health.

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