Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the blessing of the simple sandwich

A few weeks ago, when I was driving home from work one night, a man on NPR mentioned cucumber sandwiches in a commentary on polo culture or English culture or something to that effect. The commentary itself was irrelevant. All my senses latched on to those two words: cucumber sandwiches. Just hearing it sparked a craving for those wonderful little treats that I drove home and made them for dinner that very night. I shaved delicate slices of cuke with my very special vegetable peeler Col bought me on a work trip to Seattle. I layered them atop thinly sliced pieces of maple oat bread, spread with a barely-there layer of mayonnaise. Then I ground fresh black pepper on top, with a pinch of sea salt. That is all. And it was perfect.

Tonight Col called me when I was leaving work, and the conversation led to food. What was for dinner, I asked? Everything seemed too complicated. What about egg salad sandwiches? I suggested. Col's reaction was just about on par with my own and the cucumber sandwiches. Any other dinner suggestions fell on deaf eggs, I mean deaf ears. Now, I'm writing this as I wait for the eggs to boil and in a few minutes, we'll have our sandwiches. And I'm wondering why don't we do this more often?

And what other sandwiches are we not having for dinner that we should be having for dinner because they're so easy and because they taste so good?

Monday, September 06, 2010


When we were kids, I remember being on the road a lot. On the road to visit family. On the road to move. On the road to visit old places we once lived. Oftentimes, those road trips happened towards the end of summer. At this point though, my memories of those hours upon hours of riding in the car sort of blend together into one long road trip. On that road trip, Mummy points out the flowers growing on the side of the road. "End-of-summers" she used to call them. They were a soft periwinkle and waved to and fro in the breeze, still warm from the late summer sun. Tilting softy leaving a long shadow in start contrast on the gray pavement below—a still-life paradox that evoked joy and melancholy at the same time.

Only fitting, then, that to this day, my summers "end" in a road trip get-away. It's bittersweet. Only this year, we had two trips: one to Maine and one to Cape Cod.

Last weekend was Maine, Hannah, Brian, Isaac, Kevin, Emi, Sapphire, Colin and I hit the road on a Wednesday night and headed back to our old stomping grounds: Boothbay Harbor. We rented an old 1800s house on an inlet on Southport Island, just off of Boothbay. It was right near Hendricks Head beach where Mummy used to bring us girls as children. (Hendricks Head is where she brought us to see the jellyfish spawning at night and where we played "let's pretend" on Commercial Rock.) I haven't been back there since I was 7—over 20 years ago. Can you believe that not much has changed?

It was quite something to bring Colin to that place to experience with him some of those old memories—the handmade taffy machine in Boothbay Harbor, the sour apple flavored popcorn, the town trolley, to watch him jump off Commercial Rock into the seaweed beards below. We made new memories. Here's my favorite: the house where we stayed was called Watersong II. It was over 200 years old and still had a lot of the original plaster and wood work. It had character for sure! Hannah and Emi were convinced that there were ghosts in the attic. Any-who. The house sat perched on a slope leading down to a dock right on an inlet that led on one side to the little bay at Hendricks Head and on the other side towards Boothbay Harbor. There were two kayaks that we were welcome to use so long as we wore life jackets.

On the last day of our stay, Hannah and Brian had left early, but the rest of us decided to go to the little beach down the road from the house. Colin and I took the kayaks there. It was low tide and as we maneuvered toward the beach, through a maze of rocks and seaweed beards, we arrived at a place maybe 5 feet deep where the water was so clear and crisp and cold that you could see every living thing at the bottom. It was mostly rocks and mussel shells. But I spotted an empty sea urchin shell that was just gorgeous and pristine. I wanted it. But it was impossible to pick it up with the paddles and we decided to keep going and try for it on the way back.

We hung out at the beach for a while. The tide came in. By the time we got back to the place where I had seen the sea urchin, the water was so deep that we couldn't even touch bottom with the paddles. But we could still see the shell! All of a sudden, Colin did something that really surprised me. He handed me his phone, paddled up to one of the rocks, used to ledge to hoist himself out of the kayak and dove into the frigid water clothes and all. He did all of this before I even had time to react and resurfaced with the beautiful shell in hand.

"My hero!" I proclaimed. "But how on earth are you going to get back in the boat?" He managed though and we paddled back, me with the sea urchin nestled between my knees. My heart was throbbing with a new kind of admiration. The whole thing was just so romantic—like out of a cheesy rom-com. And now I have my beautiful shell to prove his most amazing manliness.

Still no sign of the End-of-Summers though. That didn't come till later...

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