It seems I’ve written quite a bit about sandwiches over the years. They were the subject of one of my earliest (and surviving) blog posts.
Given that a sandwich is food – a filling – wrapped up – or between two slices of some sort of bread – I really have. Quite something given that about five years ago, I stopped eating bread: commercial bread, anyway. That’s a story for another time.
First memorable sandwich
My first real sandwich memory goes back to 1969 and my first day at school. I think it’s memorable because, actually, the sandwich was not. Memorable. I think. That January morning, at mid-morning break, I opened my square, yellow lunch box and found a Fray Bentos sandwich. I remember sitting by myself on the “playground” which was a tarmacadam tennis court. I didn’t really know what was expected of me.
I heard a cacophony, not wanting to join in and retreated into my lunch box.
In it: a single slice of white bread, cut in half and then cut again, into two squares. Fray Bentos – with butter or margarine – on white bread – was my most frequent tea time snack for the next eight years. The only variation was after we moved to Grahamstown. In late summer, the garden produced a glut of tomatoes. Soggy white bread and warm slices of tomato were not an improvement on Fray Bentos.
Going to boarding school introduced me to sandwiches of an entirely different sort.
Last year, at the behest of a school mate, I wrote about a tuck shop favourite. I alluded to the sandwiches that we boarders would get each day. I specifically mentioned the egg sandwiches which were my favourite: grated, with salt and pepper and on fresh brown bread. My mouth is watering now, as I think about them. They were a definite improvement on the Fray Bentos sandwiches. In her defense, my mother probably slapped them together either the night before, after cooking dinner or after we moved to Grahamstown, as she cooked the family breakfast.
Of the variety of sandwiches we got at boarding school – different every day – my least favourite was peanut butter. Just. No. I’m not a peanut butter girl. I’m not a fan of peanuts, period. When they “happened” and, I admit, it wasn’t often, I just gave them a miss and/or happily passed them on to someone who lurved them.
More white bread
Still at boarding school, with seniority came certain privileges. One of these was leave to leave the school property and walk either to the local bakery or to the hospital kiosk. The latter was closer, but the bread wasn’t quite the same as from the Prem(ier Bakery). We knew exactly what time it came out of the oven and if we timed it right, we could make it back to the hostel while the bread was still warm. Back in the boarding house, armed with butter or margarine (I don’t remember which) and bags of salt and vinegar chips (crisps), we’d sit on our beds and make sandwiches. They were out-of-this-world-delicious. And crummy. We did not care.
Truthfully, I have, in my adulthood been known to buy a sandwich with a packet of crisps and then proceed to open the sandwich and add the crisps. Always salt and vinegar. Only salt and vinegar.
For the crunch, you understand.
After leaving school and at university, sandwiches didn’t feature. At. All. Nor in my early working years until I worked for a company that had no canteen. For a while, the tea lady, as a side line, made toasted sandwiches for the staff. I remember their being delicious. I remember, too, that that was the first time that I began to make soup. Not like my mother’s. Another story for another time. Perhaps.
Twenty years of Lunch (mostly) sandwiches
When I started working from home – now more years than most people would like to contemplate – a sandwich was the logical, quick, on the run food. Oh, but before that, and when I lived alone, bread and open sandwiches were essential for survival. Toast and avocado remain one of my favourites. For a while, I was lucky to work with someone who had an avocado farm. For that year, I lived on avocado on toast. It was never boring. It would have been even more exciting had I discovered Mexican flavours and chilli. However, in 1989, cuisines of the world were less known – an popular – than they are now. That said, I still love plain avocado, with a fresh slice of bread and butter, salt and freshly ground blace pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Also, incidentally, one of my Dad’s favourites.
Favourite unconventional sandwiches
Sandwiches cover a multitude of sins.
Another favourite and not often indulged in – although we may… is the vetkoek. It’s a traditional leavened dough that’s deep-fried and stuffed. Often with curried meat. It’s another tuck shop favourite from school. It’s an iconic local streetfood. It’s delicious. The last time I ate one, was
the day I got the jab was just last night.
At a farewell for Swiss swallows who’ll return for the summer later this year.
Flatbreads, buns and wraps
When I really applied my mind, I realised that we eat a lot of sandwiches – if I stretch the definition.
Flat, or naan bread is a frequent menu item.
Then there are my tortilla trials.
Last but not least, the buns.
Since I began my sourdough journey and I bake buns for the market, it’s an excuse to eat the iconic sandwich: the burger. I also make the patties: plant and meat-based. The latter’s recipe a work in progress. When I post it, I’ll edit this add the link here.
Musings about memories
I had not thought much about my school lunches until sandwich memories came up as a topic. I also had not realised how indelible a memory that first-day-at-school sandwich was. That memory was the first thing that jumped into my head. It’s a memory that makes me neither happy nor sad; I just remember it. Perhaps it’s more about feeling overwhelmed in that playground. In the crowd but not part of it. It’s a feeling that’s persisted for most of my life. Again, neither happy, nor sad but rather just the way it is.
Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
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