November 18, 2011

Ode to the simple sandwich

There are some types of food I only crave at certain times. Ginger ale on airplanes. Grilled cheese and tomato soup on rainy days. And tomato sandwiches whenever, for some reason or other, I am reminded of Harriet the Spy. Harriet the Spy may not be one of my favorite children's books, but something in me respects the fact that this book still has the power to make me crave a tomato sandwich every now and then.
The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, "Wouldn't you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?" Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.
"Tomato," said Harriet, not even looking up from the book she was reading at breakfast.
Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
I was most recently reminded of Harriet the Spy while reading Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. If you can't tell by now, I read with my stomach, and Murakami consistently provides some pretty tasty food for thought. I always look forward to reading about the simple meals his loner characters cook at home. Often it's spaghetti. Tengo of 1Q84 tends to make pretty healthy meals for himself, ranging from broiled mackerel to radish salad and miso soup. At one point,  he channels Harriet's old standby, the tomato sandwich, though he alters it a bit by adding cheese:
He knew he couldn't go back to sleep, so he boiled water and made coffee. That woke him up a bit. Feeling hungry, he threw together a sandwich of tomatoes and cheese that were in the fridge.
1Q84, Haruki Murakami
Sandwiches have gotten pretty complicated and fancy. Just look at this list. Sometimes I forget that a sandwich can be very good even if it is only two ingredients: two slices of your favorite bread and a perfect slice of ripe tomato. Maybe a little mustard, too, but that's it. Perfection in simplicity.

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