Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Satisfaction of a Sandwich

A while back, on an episode of Nigella Feasts on the Food Network, she made a sandwich on thick black bread smeared with cream cheese and jam, which she wrapped and took with her on a busy day in London. My first thought was, why would anyone need a recipe for a sandwich? My second thought was a little more generous, as I was filled with pleasant memories of growing up on open face sandwiches like this. We always had great breads and rolls on hand from one Polish bakery or another, nary a slice of Wonder bread in sight, and so I wondered if maybe it's a European thing. She did call it a Hungarian sandwich after all, and noted that the black bread can be found at Polish bakeries. So maybe some folks wouldn't think of a sandwich like this. My last thought on the matter, when they showed her biting into the sandwich in the back seat of a taxi cab was, yeah, right.

As I set out to go Christmas shopping yesterday, after being snowed in the day before on my first snow day of the season (tee hee), I made a list of stores I needed to go to, things I needed to buy, and coupons I had available to redeem. I also made myself a sandwich to take with me.

Yes, I know.

I'm not sure if it's more embarrassing that I laughed at the premise on Nigella Feasts or if I'm simply embarrassed that I packed a lunch to go Christmas shopping--period. As if I were heading off for a long day at work. As if I couldn't go a few hours without food. Clearly I can. But more than once in my life, easily influenced by a friend's suggestion or led by my own proclivity for dining out, I have abandoned shopping goals for a juicy burger and a warm seat at a bar. And I couldn't afford that with Christmas around the corner and another storm in the forecast. I didn't want to be distracted by hunger, nor did I want to spend five dollars or waste five minutes in a drive-thru line. Especially since I had my favorite Polish ham (Krakowska szynka) and rye bread on hand.

The day before, while preparing for the storm, I went to the Polish deli not far from where I live. In fact, I met my father there when I learned that my mother was sending him on an errand. I have often enjoyed foods from this deli at my parents' table, but have been too intimidated, or out of practice, to go in by myself. As children my sisters and I would accompany our parents to a deli in Hartford, but that was decades ago. Just in case the culture of Polish delis had changed--would I have to order in my rusty Polish? could I order in English?--I thought maybe I should have a chaperon. So I waited in line with my dad, eyed out my favorite, garlicky and delicious ham, then let him order for me. (Next time I'll order myself.) I drove home with the aroma of a half pound of Krakowska szynka, not a single slice of which will go to waste.

Yesterday at 1:30 I paid homage to Nigella. Halfway through my shopping adventures, I found a parking spot in the Macy's lot, unwrapped my sandwich, and enjoyed every bite.

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