I have done a grave disservice to the honorable, reliable, unpretentious Sandwich.
I realized this yesterday at Costco.
One of my favorite activities at Costco is looking at everyone else’s cart and trying to invent the person’s story by what they buy. It’s easier to do this at a warehouse store rather than the supermarket, because when people buy in BULK – their real personality shines through like Tom Cruise’s teeth on the red carpet.
There’s nothing like 12 chickens to give me a whole chapter for a sci-fi novel. Or 48 rolls of toilet paper. Or the old guy with bags and bags of onions.
Anyhow… (Have you ever noticed how many sentences I begin with “anyhow”? That is my Tell…. my obvious sign that I am bringing myself back around to the topic after I’ve meandered away just for my own entertainment.)
So anyhow, yesterday at Costco, besides the chicken-laden shopping cart and the geezer that had need of 77 onions, there was a lady with two huge bags that each held 24 small pack-in-your-lunch-size bags of potato chips. Her obvious story is that she’s got three kids and so she’ll have lunch for the kids for the next 3 weeks. Her less obvious story is that she’s got 24 kids, and so she only has 2 days’ worth of lunchbox chips. Her even lesser obvious story is that she likes to feed ducks and she wants the ducks to each get their own bag.
Anyhow, that’s how I started to feel all kinds of guilt over my neglect of the simple sandwich.
Because all through high school, I had one of those little bags of potato chips in my lunch. My sandwich lunch.
I don’t eat many sandwiches now… carbs, cold cut sodium… all that shit. But the truth is: I love sandwiches.
And I wrote recently of my deep and abiding love for Reuben sandwiches.which was not fair. Because oh my God, simple sandwiches are so wonderful too.
I love peanut butter and jelly, I love salami, I love liverwurst, I love egg salad. I love veal loaf, ham, turkey, bacon, bologna – all kinds of sandwiches.
At our house, lunches for the next day were prepared after dinner. With supper all cleaned up, my mother would take out the sandwich fixings. Bread, mayo, mustard, cheese – and the main ingredient – cold cuts or tuna salad.
And of course little bags of potato chips. And a Yodel. My brother liked RingDings, but I liked Yodels… my Mother used to buy the Yodels one week, and the RingDings the next.I am proud to say, I suffered through the RingDings for my little brother’s sake. I only have a mild case of PTSD as a result.
Anyhow, no one can make a neater sandwich than Mom. I feel sorry for kids today, with their stupid flimsy little baggies with sandwiches that slosh around in there, slowly falling apart. Back in the sixties, we didn’t have little baggies. We had waxed paper.
You could press autumn leaves in waxed paper, using an iron, if you were really careful (and if your mother didn’t catch you doing it.) But the main purpose of waxed paper was to wrap wonderful sandwiches.
My mom was a nurse, and she had years and years of practice making neat hospital corners on the bed sheets, and her sandwich wrapping was as good as it gets. Her sandwiches were so perfect, it was like you got a sweet little Christmas present every day.
Mom would make several perfect sandwiches. She bought little brown bags by the hundred, and she’d put a sandwich, a bag of chips, a Yodel (if I was lucky) and perhaps a piece of fruit in each bag.
And she would label each bag with an initial. “M” for Mom, “D” for Dad, “T” for Tommy and “N” for Nancy. (My two sisters were both “Cs”, which would have been confusing, but they were in college, and so were way above a lunch bag.) Sometimes all the bags held exactly the same thing, but my mother would put an initial on each one anyway.
I loved all my sandwiches. But my favorite – by far – was tunafish. How I loved (and still love) a tunafish sandwich with a side of potato chips.
Now I don’t know whether mayonnaise was a lot more stable fifty years ago, or whether we were just hardier, tougher kids, but no one worried about the tuna salad spoiling. I would put that lunch bag in my purse at 7 A.M., and would eat it as late as 1 P.M. I never got poisoned. It seemed liked the longer you carried your tuna sandwich, the better it tasted – like the bread and the tuna melded as one.
And that waxed paper… why you didn’t even need a plate, because that paper unfolded to the nicest little placemat you can imagine.
Thinking about high school lunch – why it was just absolutely the best part of high school. I’d meet up with Patti and Karen and Chris and Mary and sometimes Charlene or Barbara…depending on the day of the week, and we’d all have our little brown bags. Some days we ALL had a tunafish sandwich. We’d each buy a little carton of milk. We would watch the girls at the popular table. We’d talk about boys and teachers and The Rolling Stones. All over the cafeteria were kids all talking at once… and either eating the school lunch – like Sloppy Joes – or tuna sandwiches. The noise was incredible. (not the eating – the hollering)
Not all of high school was nice. But boy, lunchtime was nice. Those sandwiches were nice.
As I said earlier, I don’t each much bread anymore (which is kind of a shame, because I am quite a good baker of bread), but every once in a while, I MUST have a sandwich. Most often I will have peanut butter and jelly, because it is so easy – and tasty. And sometimes when I visit my Mom, we’ll have sandwiches. Mom always has good cold cuts – and she always always always has good bread. Mom is a connoisseur of bread.
And on very special days for hubby and me, I take out the tuna (two cans of tuna because the dog and both cats come running as soon as they hear that swoosh of the can opener) and the mayo, and the potato chips (which I buy only for company, but pray all the time they are visiting that they don’t eat them all) – and I have the most fabulous lunch, accompanied not only by the chips but by the best memories ever.