Monday, January 15, 2018

A ham sandwich

At this time of year, we usually have at least a bit of leftover ham. It gets made into a few special dishes - one favourite is Claudia Roden's Antico Risotto Sabaudo, with ham, cheese and white wine. But most of it gets eaten with salad or in sandwiches.
    My neighbour Frances recently spent some time in a retirement home, recuperating from a hip operation.  Being the Christmas season, she did get to eat ham there. Unfortunately, it was served warmed up and covered in brown gravy. So I brought her fresh little ham sandwiches, and she devoured them. It set me off thinking about other ham sandwiches in my life...

My husband always hoped to find
A plain ham sandwich to go with his coffee:
White bread, butter, ham, a dab of mustard.
But all they ever had were flat panini
And giant croissants stuffed with cheese and bacon.

The year after he died, I went to Auckland
To see my sister. At the airport Wishbone
Lined up beside the lamb with green mint jelly
And the chicken with watercress and cranberry
Was a proper old-fashioned ham sandwich
With real butter. I carried it off
To a quiet corner of the concourse
Disentangled it from its plastic armour
And bit into its long exposed soft side.

I was seven again, sitting across from my mother
On a plywood chair at a white Formica table.
Hard to say who was enjoying it more:
Her, out on the town, her string bag bulging
With small exciting unnecessary parcels
Or me, freed from school for two whole weeks
Plunging deeply into the heady pleasure
Of a soft ham sandwich and a fizzy drink
In the neon light of Farmer’s Bargain Basement.

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