In February, Bibliobites members made lots of sandwiches from that month’s book, ‘wichcraft by Tom Colicchio. Thinking about sandwiches, making them, and eating them brought back a long-ago memory for me. Readers, have you ever enjoyed a transcendent sandwich? A combination of time, place, and ingredients that turned an everyday lunch into a blissful eating experience?
………It’s the mid-60s, and I am eight or nine years old. It’s summer vacation and the day is warm and sunny. I’m spending the day with my friend Colleen, at her great-aunt’s house in Freeport, NY, a town near the shore. The small white house has a velvety bright green lawn sloping down to a canal where we can see rows of glossy boats tethered to their docks. Noisy gulls circle endlessly overhead in a cloudless blue sky. We’re sitting on the grass not doing much of anything, enjoying our freedom and the sunshine.
We’re here today because Mrs. Connolly, Colleen’s mom, is helping to take care of her aunt. The aunt is elderly and is ill with something that means she stays in bed in a darkened room. Looking back, I think she must have had a stroke or something similar involving a long convalescence, but at the time the aunt’s woes are of no concern to me. I am a little scared I may have to meet this unknown old person and even talk to her, but as it turns out we girls hardly set foot in the cool, dim house. Mrs. Connolly disappears into the kitchen, and we go outside into the stunning day.
So there we are on the grass, leaning back propped up on our elbows, squinting at the water, and Mrs. Connolly comes towards us. She’s carrying two plates with sandwiches on them, and I suddenly realize it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry. She puts down the plates, and probably a glass of something to drink, too, but I don’t notice because I am amazed and thrilled by what’s been set in front of me: a whole sandwich filled with nothing but BACON! Now you have to understand that, like most kids (like most people!) I really like bacon; but it’s something doled out infrequently and in small quantities at my house. Whereas now, on my plate I see a generous length of soft Italian bread stuffed with MANY slices of salty, porky, fatty goodness, and it’s ALL FOR ME! I take a big bite and practically swoon with the perfection of it all—the tender, floury bread; the soul-satisfying smoky crispiness of the bacon—and nothing else. No mayo, or mustard, or lettuce, or tomato; nothing to interfere with that blessed bacon-ness. I devour every last crumb, with gusto.
I honestly don’t remember anything else about that day; but the combination of the idyllic setting, the sun-soaked day, and the unexpected treat created an unforgettable for me. Most likely, Mrs. Connolly made that lunch for us because there wasn’t much else to eat in the house, and it was something quick and easy (this was well before the advent of microwaves). I’m sure she had no idea that I would think that sandwich was so incredible, but I’ve never forgotten it.
Love sandwiches? Love bacon? Then check out these titles: A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches by Tyler Kord; Panini, Bruschetta, Crostini: Sandwiches Italian Style by Viana LaPlace; 300 Sandwiches: A Multi-layered Love Story—With Recipes by Stephanie Smith; The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen; Bacon Nation: 125 Irresistible Recipes by Peter Kaminsky; Seduced by Bacon by Joanna Pruess.