The Catharsis Of Sandwich Making

IMG_4298How an ordinary sandwich and its sublime construction made my day…

I joke, I’m the sandwich lady. Every morning I make two sandwiches for my children’s lunch. Sure they can make their own sandwich but it’s like a bad habit I can’t stop. Besides they are always running late or can’t find something. I don’t love making sandwiches, most mornings I fling the ingredients on the counter and slap everything together with the main goal of putting everything back in its place…only to start over again the next morning.

I do add finishing touches like a piece of romaine lettuce and sometimes I get fancy and make basil mayo. The kids like it although my son was once told by a classmate that his sandwich was moldy – mostly though it’s another chore like washing the dog’s dish and feeding him day after day after day.

Yet, I can’t help but feel there is something cathartic for me about sandwich making. A sandwich packed neatly in a brown paper bag, means someone is behind the scenes keeping it all together.

I didn’t always have that someone behind the scenes since my mother died when I was in sixth grade. We ate hot lunch in school and all I ever wanted was a sandwich. I do remember the sandwiches my mother made on white square rolls with ham and muenster cheese. Those were mostly Saturday sandwiches.

I make sandwiches for other occasions as well. There are the sandwiches I make for double header baseball games when I know my son will be gone for six hours and my kitchen will remain intact. Those sandwiches are like a good luck send off. School sandwiches represent the survival meal for those who don’t eat breakfast.

The other day I made someone else a sandwich. I spotted rare roast beef at the deli and ordered a half a pound. I knew I would be visiting my Dad the next day who is suffering from dementia. Food has become one of his last remaining pleasures – that and the Yankees. I made sure I purchased a soft white roll. I made that sandwich a little more carefully, although I noticed lately that I care how neatly the cold cuts are folded and lined up. I spread mayonnaise on the roll and sprinkled salt and pepper. No lettuce though, it’s too late to convince Dad of the merits of vegetables. I made sure I cut the sandwich in two even parts.

It’s all about setting the mood for visits to Dad. As I unfolded the aluminum foil, I could sense Dad’s interest. I wanted him to like my sandwich. If he deemed it too rare or not rare enough, his ire would dampen our time together. He liked the sandwich. We smiled at each other and he happily ate it.

It was a small and simple pleasure to add Dad to my list of sandwich recipients. I don’t really understand who he has become but the sandwich brought us a little closer. It imparted a little bit comfort…while the simplicity of its construction held it all together.


  1. Vilma, that made me get choked up. Beautifully written. It reminded me of making meals for my dad when food was also his only pleasure in life. Loving your blog.

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