Of all the meals that my father ever made for us, the one thing that has always always been etched in my mind are the ham sandwiches. With soft bread, crisp lettuce, ice-cold ham and home-made mayonnaise.
Whenever he was in town, Papa would make a special trip to this gourmet shop at least once. Steak House. Here, he'd buy ham, cheese, lettuce and sliced bread, the size of my face.
Once he'd get home, he'd chill the ham in the freezer and down to making mayonnaise. There were two reasons for this 1. He didn't like store-bought mayonnaise and 2. He thought he was the king of mayonnaise-makers.
The truth is that his mayonnaise was far superior than anything I'd ever eaten outside. It never tasted eggy, was zesty and smooth and had a tang that was this creamy spread needed. Pretty much perfect. And it still is.
Once the mayo was done, the assembly would begin. Slather mayo on two slices of the jumbo bread. Put a leaf of crisp lettuce on one, top with a slice of cheese and then a slice of the cold cold ham. And finally another slice of bread mayo-side down. Cut across diagonally. And there - lunch was served.
Simple, delicious and filling. It really was no surprises that my sister and I would really look forward to this meal. Especially since my mother was a vegetarian and there was rarely any meat in the house. Also because, with the left-over mayonnaise, we'd make egg-salad sandwiches. Another lunch favourite of my fathers.
Egg-salad sandwiches later became a staple for all our birthday parties. They were made for tea if people came over. For dinner sometimes, if my mother didn't feel like cooking. And even today, I make egg-salad sandwiches whenever I need to eat a quick meal.
And as children, if we lucked-out that there was half-a-jar of mayo left. I'd make club sandwiches for my sister and I. I must have been 10? 11? when I read the recipe at the back of a chips packet (Uncle Chipps Spicy Treat, I think it was). It called for cold coleslaw, sliced cucumber and tomato a fried egg, meat, cheese and lots of chips. Oh and toasted bread.
So after we'd come back from school. I'd make the coleslaw and fry an egg while my sister would grate the cheese. We'd use 4 slices of toasted bread. Toast-butter-coleslaw-
cucumber-toast-butter-fried egg-cheese-toast-mayo-chips- toast-butter. Then I'd use this huge bread knife and slice the sandwich in half. Half on her plate, half on mine. Served with ketchup and some more chips.
She'd rarely finish all of hers. I mean she was barely 7 or 8 and I'd gladly eat the leftovers.
So you see, sandwiches have really been a big part of life. So when I started reading Susan Russo's blog, I really couldn't stop especially after I learnt that she was bringing out an anthology of sandwiches. Which is exactly what I'm holding in my hand right now.
This isn't a book that you should buy when you're ravenous. You'd want to eat it up. The cover, the pictures everything. This isn't a book you should start flipping through while you're driving. You're guaranteed to jump a light.
This is a book that should be delivered to your house only when your fridge is stocked. So that you can jump right into it and make that sandwich while you're reading the book. You'd think calling it an Encyclopedia of Sandwiches - recipes, history and trivia for everything between sliced bread might make the book a little arrogant. Really, it's not.
This is a book that tells you why a sandwich was born. Why a Reuben is a Reuben and why a Turkey sandwich must be eaten a day after thanksgiving. There's a bit of history, a bit of novelty and a bit of wholesomeness. And then there are the photographs. Oh boy - the sandwiches are calling out to you. Eat me, no eat me - it's like the list is endless. Matt Armendariz has done a splendid job.
Of all the sandwiches, I'm narrowing this down to four of my favourites.
1. The Vietnamese Bahn Mi. For people who know me, know I am totally obsessed with the bahn-mi. My husband doesn't get it. It's just a whole lot of things in a hard bread. (actually it's on a baguette, but who's going to correct him). Russo's Bahn-mi uses chicken pate, I use mushroom. She uses just cilantro, I use a mix of herbs. Still it's a recipe that I totally love.
2. Eggplant Parmesan Sub. With my love for eggplant and a hard roll, this is a sandwich impossible to say no to.
3. The Caprese Sandwich. I made them for my X-mas party - and they are complete crowd pleasers. Fresh flavours with lovely lovely fresh cheese.
4. The Sausage and Pepper Sandwich. Crusty roll, bell peppers, olive oil. Need I say more
Ofcourse she has a whole range of recipes that are tested and awesome. There's the philly cheesesteak, the hoagie, hero, spamwich, cubano, croque monsieur, elvis, the classic BLT, flutter-nutter and another favourite chocolate sandwich. And the best part, each of them have a story.