The humble sandwich
and artist Anita Rodriguez
By Christina Stock
Temperatures are rising, what better way than to keep the kitchen cool and enjoy comfort food that is easy to make. It is the ultimate first “fast food” in the world that you can eat anywhere: The versatile, creative and delicious sandwich.
Now, there are families that are known to fight for the honor of making the best ultimate sandwich, my family on my American father’s side — my mom is German — was such a family. It did start with my father and a simple scrambled egg sandwich in the 1970s. He announced it to be the best there would ever be — the race was on. Every time a cousin or sibling would visit, new variations were put to the test, vying for the title. Of course, there were no trophies and occasionally some really weird combination that I am not even going to mention.
When I got older, I did join in to compete and won on occasion.
The love toward the sandwich is worldwide, but you can rarely see it on a fancy menu in three- or four-star restaurants. There are, however, several days in the calendar that honor that underestimated delicacy, from National Sandwich Day, International Sandwich Maker Day to Worldwide Sandwich Day. But how did it all start? One would think it is an obvious choice to put cold cuts between two slices of bread, but in the medieval times, nobody in Europe came up with that.
Farmers would get their lunch during harvest out in the fields, when their wives would bring them hot soup and a slice of bread. If they were wealthy, they might get some butter on it.
Leave it up to the British royals to come up with something like that.
John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-92), a British statesman, frolicked around the countryside, he inherited his title at the age of 10, so he was understandably spoiled. While it is said that he was a good administrator later in life, he was known as a younger man to be corrupt and a gambler. Legend says the sandwich was invented because he used to gamble hours on end, not wanting to get up to get something to eat. He asked his butler to put some sliced meat between two slices of bread so he would be able to hold it while continuing to play cards. The first sandwich was born.
With the U.S. returning to space with Space X Dragon spacecraft, I want to share an infamous, but true story about the first sandwich in space. NASA astronaut John Young, who is famous for his Apollo 16 moonwalks, did a really sneaky thing. Just before take-off on Gemini 3, March 23, 1965, he smuggled a corned beef sandwich on board. The incident was recorded, though he did not eat it because it was starting to fall apart — crumbs in space is not a good idea. It is today exhibited in the Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell, Indiana. Today, astronauts on the International Space Station often make themselves sandwiches, the times of eating the paste out of the tubes are long gone.
Here is one of my favorite sandwiches. I didn’t name it, perhaps you can give it a fun one.
11-ingredient warm open-faced sandwich
2 large slices of French bread
4 slices salami
4 slices Blackforest ham
2 slices Swiss cheese
1/2 avocado, sliced
2 large leaves of lettuce
1/4 sweet onion, cut in thin slivers
1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 Tbsp hot mustard (or German mustard)
1/2 Tbsp red chile sauce or ketchup
1 Tbsp butter
Evenly spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the bread, add the mustard on top and the red chile or ketchup.
Top each bread evenly with avocado and onion slices and the lettuce.
In a large pan on medium heat, let the butter melt until the foam is gone and it is slightly brown. Add the eggs and cook to your liking. Top the bread with the eggs. Add the salami and ham to the pan and brown shortly on both sides. Stack the meat and top with the cheese. When the cheese is melted, put it on top of the egg.
Serve right away.
Books for comfort:
The colorful world of award-winning painter and author Anita Rodriguez is reflected in her book “Coyota in the Kitchen — A Memoir of New and Old Mexico.”
Her book won Southwest Book Award, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Award, Best Multi-Cultural Book, Best New Mexico Book and Zia Book awards.
In an email Rodriguez writes, “My book, “Coyota in the Kitchen,” is a cookbook, a memoir, it also opens windows into the history of New Mexico — where my family has been for 300 years. It is layered, deliberately. I offer a colorful, entertaining story, but there are layers of depth, plenty of intellectual chew-toys, and — just as in my paintings — I hide little things in them. The painting on the cover of the book is of the feast in the last chapter where all the characters are: Those who are dead, converse, tell stories and comment on the food.”
Her book has captures the magic and lore of New Mexico in the artist’s — she is a painter — unique and colorful way.
Her biography reads like an adventure and you just want to know more. “I was born in Taos, grew up on Taos plaza where my father, Antonio “Skeezix” Rodriguez had a drugstore,” Rodriguez writes. “I learned to paint from my mother. Before I became a professional painter and writer, I was an enjarradora, or traditional adobe mud finisher and had a contractor’s license and worked in the specialty of esoteric earth finishes. I lived in Mexico for 15 years, have traveled to China, worked in Egypt for Hassan Fathy, the renowned earth-builder and author of ‘Architecture for the Poor.’ I have a daughter who lives in Taos, a son who lives in London, and presently spend my time gardening, writing my column for the Taos News, and working on another book and painting — I live in lockdown because of medical issues.”
For more information, visit anitarodriguez.com.