Sometimes a sandwich can be a masterpiece. Just the right combination of things in perfect proportions. Textures, flavors, everything in harmony. This phenomenon has been explored on film. In Spanglish, a world-class chef makes a sandwich for himself alone. He is looking at it lovingly and croons, very softly as he picks it up: Ooooh, baby. At that moment, just as he’s about to take a bite, two people barge in, arguing. Sandwich interruptus.
This scene was carefully planned, as noted on the blog FilmFood:
…in the stage directions [was] the notation that the hero of his film, a culinary genius, would make “a snack we will remember and copy.” Adam Sandler (playing the chef) was trained to make this sandwich by the famous chef Thomas Keller, culinary consultant for the film.
So the other day I made a sandwich — not this sandwich, but one of my own design –and it was perfect. I ate half of it at lunch time, and then I covered the plate with a second plate to save for later. You don’t mess with a perfect sandwich’s gestalt by putting it in the refrigerator or in plastic; it wouldn’t be the same sandwich when you come back to it. A perfect sandwich is a delicate thing.
I settled down to work in my office, which is just across the hall from the kitchen and I was actually getting some writing done, so I was concentrating very hard. As some point the Used-to-Be-Girlchild comes dashing down the stairs from her aerie, late for class as usual. She yells BYE! grabs the car keys from the counter and whoosh, she’s gone.
Maybe a half hour after that as my concentration starts to wane I remember the sandwich, and a niggling little worry pops into my head. Surely not, I tell myself. She ran out the door at high speed. But once the idea had presented itself, it would not be banished. In the end I got up and walked into the kitchen…
Gone. The plates were there next to each other like empty clamshells, no sign of the half sandwich.
The Used-to-Be-Girlchild, she is speedy.
I couldn’t call her because she was either driving or in class. I couldn’t text her, because that would give her time to come up with a fiendishly clever explanation. So I waited. And I waited.
It was about five when she called. There was a quality to her voice that reminded me of the time when she was four and she concocted a very effective scheme to fill her piggy bank with somebody else’s spare change. A story for another time.
Right now just know that I heared something in her voice as she was telling me about the exam that she got a 98 on, and the question she missed, and the questions she was worried about that did not, thankfully, actually show up on the test, and the person who gave up ten minutes into the test and just walked out of the classroom, on and on, the history of this test went, and I listened. I listened and every once in a while I made a little noise so she’d know I was listening.
I was luring her into a false sense of security. A trick all women learn early on in the motherhood game.
When she had gone about five minutes in this marathon monologue on a test she wouldn’t remember next week, she drew a breath and I said, “Oh, I meant to ask you, did you take my sandwich?”
A whole universe of meaning bombarded me in the five seconds of silence that followed. I could almost hear her frantically sorting through excuses, denials, and fabrications, trying them each on for size and casting them aside, one by one, as too weak to try on me, the mother who knows.
She finally drew in a big breath and she said, her voice very calm, “But mom, it was SO GOOD.”
Completely disarmed me. I laughed for ten minutes. When she got home, I laughed for another ten minutes. I’m laughing now, thinking about it.
The next time I make a sandwich masterpiece, I will have to carry it with me, wherever I go. You’d think the master chef in Spanglish would have known that much.
PS: Please don’t ask, I’m not telling you what was on my miracle sandwich.