When I was growing up, I’m not sure when, my mom “trained” me to pack my own lunch. I took virtually the same lunch to school every single day of middle school and the first two years of high school. I literally don’t think I could have even told you how to buy a lunch from the cafeteria line because I never did it. Every lunch I packed contained a turkey sandwich. And by turkey sandwich, I mean two pieces of honey-wheat bread with three pieces of turkey (the Hillshire Farm kind that came in the red cardboard box) and a slice of cheese. My mom told me that if I put mayonnaise on my sandwich I had to take an ice pack so that it wouldn’t spoil, and since it was “cooler” to bring your lunch in a plastic grocery bag than in a lunchbox, an ice pack was out of the question. So, I skipped the mayonnaise. I would make my lunch in the kitchen. In the winters our cat Clemmie and I would jostle over who got to stand over the warm vent in the corner. And the cats learned to congregate while I made the sandwich because they almost always would get lucky enough to receive a sliver of the turkey.
On Saturdays, my dad and I always had “special time,” and some weeks that meant we would go to Subway and pick up cold cut combo sandwichs to take to the playground and have a picnic. In those days they had a small round sandwich that was the kids meal and I loved the squishy bread! I ate Subway a lot in college, too, so those subs hold a somewhat special place in my heart.
My sandwich palette has matured since those days (I’m not sure just meat and cheese would satisfy anymore), but I do still love a turkey sandwich. If I’m on a trip and eating out a lot, or in a foreign country, or entertaining visitors and eating a lot of rich foods, my stomach starts to crave a simple sandwich. My favorite is when a restaurant has the shredded iceberg lettuce rather than a leaf, and I enjoy “fancy” mayonnaise as well (pesto aioli, for example).
On days when there aren’t leftovers to pack, I’ll still make a sandwich for my lunch, but there’s something about getting a “real” sandwich from a restaurant or deli that is much more satisfying. I don’t tend to keep enough yummy ingredients on hand to make it prefect, and it seems like too much effort to buy a lot of stuff just to make a sandwich, so I prefer getting it out if I’m to eat a sandwich. I like Italian subs and the occasional chicken salad sandwich, but turkey is, as they say, my bread and butter. Mississippi, for whatever reason, was rich with sandwich shops, and I frequented several: McAllister’s and Sweet Pepper’s Deli in Columbus and Starkville were favorites. (My dad and I used to go to Quizno’s sometimes, but as a kid I HATED crusty bread, so the toasting didn’t really work for me. I think I’d be into it now, though.) In Birmingham, Newk’s and Roly Poly satisfied my craving. Atlanta seems to do chicken salad really well (Cafe at Pharr! Rising Roll! Sophies!), but I don’t know that I’ve found a good equivalent to those spots for a more basic sandwich. Alhough, I had my first Jimmy Johns delivery at work last week (freaky fast!) and it just may be a contender. I need to try out Goldberg’s, too!
I love Southern comfort foods as much as the next girl, and I have other foods that feel like home, but the turkey sandwich is an important part of my food repertoire.
What food is your happy place? Do you crave any seemingly mundane foods when you’re off your routine for awhile?