Friday, October 8, 2010

Italian Sandwiches

This is actually something I did for homework. It's for my class on food writing. But I just finished it and think it came out kind of okay. Tell me what you think!


It was a tradition when I was a kid-- my dad standing in the kitchen, hovering over the cutting board. He would slide his bread knife with the black wooden handle sideways through a loaf of golden Italian bread, halving it lengthwise. He would turn the top half around, so that the bread-y sides of both faced up. He would sprinkle the bread with his simplest homemade salad dressing-- just olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. “Put on more!” I would say. I loved salad dressing, and I ate it on everything, but especially on bread (and spaghetti.) In Ashley Land, the world I made up when I was six, perhaps hoping to influence parental meal choices, you drank salad dressing with supper instead of milk.

My dad would slap on slices of Genoa salami, ham, hot capicola, provolone cheese, and leaves and leaves of lettuce. On one half of the loaf, he would add tomatoes, onions, and peppers, because my mom and dad liked that kind of stuff. The pickles were always popped on last, so that the juice seeped into the bread. Then, my dad would put the loaf back together and cut it into five, one cut for each of us, and stuff those sandwiches into ziplock bags.

Then, we’d go somewhere.

In the summer, we would go to the beach. My brothers and I would play in the water. Adam and I would go in as deep as we could manage. We’d go in over our heads, and when mom would make us prove that we could still stand and thus were in no danger of drowning, we’d fake it, treading water with only our feet so that our shoulders stood still above the ocean’s rim. Matthew, five years younger, would watch from the shallows, making drippy castles and catching hermit crabs with his tiny, chubby hands. We’d get hungry pretty quickly; swallowed salt water only goes so far. So, we would race to the shore, showing off how fast we could swim underwater. We’d dash to the beach blanket that was really just a towel and soak it with dripping sea water and sand. We’d beg to please please have our sandwiches now, please.

The sea salt of the air would intermingle perfectly with the vinegar salt of the sandwiches. I would take little bites and run my tongue against the soft, salad dressing soaked insides of the bread. I would chomp on the cheese. I would crunch on the lettuce. I would lick my lips. After a few bites, each breath of air tasted like Italian bread and salami.

Matthew would start to tear off bits of his sandwich, throwing them to the seagulls that were slowly surrounding us. They would lunge for the bits of food as if, instead of just coming back from stealing potato chips from some now crying toddler, they hadn’t eaten for weeks. And Matthew would lunge for them, joyfully yelling, “Duck!”

Other, colder days, we’d go on hikes, bringing our sandwiches along. My dad would shove them into his backpack, and I’d stuff the pockets of my overalls with chocolate kisses. We would walk past scenic salt marshes and trees with soft pine needles. My mom would remind us to be careful not to trip over the roots that scattered throughout the paths like funhouse stairs. My dad would warn us to beware the Clamaconda and the Giant Tick, monsters of his invention that always made us roll our eyes. Adam and I would pick up kindling for later, and fight to find the best walking stick. We would snack on chocolate.

After a while, we’d stop. On all of our walks, we had a favorite stopping point-- the wooden tipi forts of the South Trail, “the pit,” of Indian Lands, and Doane Rock by the Salt Pond Visitor Center. Doane Rock was our favorite. Adam and I had finally learned to climb it when we were six, and thought that by then, we were pretty much experts. Even though Matthew was little, he could still climb some of it. We thought it was the tallest thing in the world, and we always wanted to eat our sandwiches at the top. Our parents never let us, though. They always made us eat at the picnic bench five feet away.

The sandwiches always seemed to taste different away from the beach. The air wasn’t salty; it was crisp and tasted like leaves, earth, and pocket-melted chocolate. The sandwiches were of more of an unexpected taste, foreign to the woods, though definitely welcome. The pickles were more noticeable. They turned the insides of the bread into lime green mushy salty goodness. Adam thought it made the bread look like alien’s skin, but I didn’t because I never really liked aliens, and that matters when you’re eight or so. I adored nature, even then, but I was still a girly-girl. I would ignore all mentions of aliens and, as I sat at the picnic table eating, I would pretend to be an Indian princess, the Pocahontas of Cape Cod, instead. I knew that Indians probably didn’t eat Italian sandwiches back then, but that was one of the sorts of things that don’t matter when you’re about eight. And, anyway, I loved those sandwiches. I loved the salty taste of the Italian spices, and the chewiness of the bread. I loved sitting outside with my parents and brothers, laughing and eating the same beautiful thing.

I can’t remember the last time my dad made an Italian sandwich on a family loaf. Adam and I are away at college, and when we are home, we’re working. Matthew’s a teenager in high school. Quite naturally, he’d rather play video games or go to the movies. When I go to the beach, it’s with my friends. When I go on walks, it’s almost always just with just one of my parents. When I go with my dad, we don’t bring food. Sometimes we’ll stop at a store afterwards. With my mom, we bring chocolate from Trader Joe’s. We talk about when we were little, when everything was as simple as cutting a loaf of Italian bread into five.


  1. I like it! You are fabulous anyway so anything you do is fantastic <3

  2. You're my fave! <3 J.K. Rowling didn't make Hogwarts' feast sound that good. PShhh...

  3. haha welll I don't know about that... I don't think my life will ever be complete without a butter beer. (totally just spelled that butter bear?)