Broccoli and pickles. Kalamata olives and figs. These are the components to two of my favorite sandwiches, and yes, those seemingly wacky combinations really do work and the results are mighty tasty.
But before I get into the recipes, once again I thank those of you who have shown me so much kindness and support during the recent difficult weeks and months for my family, including your sending photos of Dad’s famous Cockle Shell Soup. I was touched to the core of my being from your responses to my last column in which I wrote about his passing. It was one of the hardest pieces I’ve ever written. Two two quotes I have relied upon in all my writing efforts kept circling through my mind, kept me going even when tears filled my eyes as I reached for elusive words and typed one word at a time.
Ernest Hemingway – “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.
Anais Nin – “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
But the writing was cathartic. Being allowed to write honestly and unreservedly helped to ease the rawness of my early grief and helped free my emotions to have their full variety and depths.
And for those of you who have inquired about the progress on my “paint by number” portrait of Dad, thank you for asking. Once I realized that somehow my brain had connected the completion of the painting with the completion of Dad’s life, I was able to start painting again. Becoming immersed with the painting inadvertently gave me another gift, one of discovery.
I was working on the area around one of Dad’s eyes. On the canvas there was a place in the inner corner of the eye, where a small circle with the number 15 inside of it, signified that a drop of number 15 paint (a deep rose) was required. I dipped my brush into the jar of number fifteen and aimed for the small circle. Unhappily, the paint dripped and my efforts to blot the paint made it smear. In my near finished portrait of Dad, I had now given him pink eye and a rash on his nose and upper cheek. I am not a painter, I do “paint by numbers,” and I had no idea how to fix this sad mess I had created.
I took several deep breaths and went to find Steve. Before he left the academic world for the crazy wonderful world of a Mom and Pop business, Steve was an art teacher. He took a look at the painting, then read the angst on my face and said, “That’s what wet paint does. It drips. But,” he continued, “You can fix this. I’ll show you how.”
Steve enlarged several photographs of my father including the one upon which the portrait was based. After I carefully studied that eye, Dad’s left one, I was able to start repairing the damage. As I compared Dad’s painted eye with his photographed eyes, something seemed familiar. I took a long look at a photograph of a younger Dad, and I realized something I had never recognized before. I have my dad’s eyes.
I know that sounds crazy, that I finally recognized a facial feature – especially after Dad’s death, but my siblings and I have mixed up faces. None of us “look like” Mom or Dad or any one individual. Rather we have bits and pieces that are familiar and familial. For instance, Damon caught one of my mother’s dimples and our paternal grandfather’s lips. I have my paternal grandmother’s forehead, Uncle Clyde’s eyelashes and perhaps my maternal grandfather’s nose. An actor, he had a small role in Humphrey Bogart’s film “Across the Pacific.” When I was in my twenties I watched the movie on the television. In his scene, Grandfather was shot at an angle that caused me to say aloud, “There’s my nose!”
Even though it was quite a repair process, I’m glad that I dripped number 15 paint on Dad’s face. I really like knowing that I look at the world with his eyes. I like that a part of him is with me in the observable, observing and physical way as well as in the many thoughts and feelings that so frequently cross my mind and touch my heart, including our shared appreciation for cooking and the sometimes oddball combinations of ingredients in our kitchen creations, which resemble the bits and pieces in our familial facial characteristics and elements. I guess life is always an ounce of this and a pinch of that in the unique combinations that make up individuals and unique recipes as well.
The recipes for two of our unusual and favorite sandwiches follow.
For the Fig and Kalamata sandwich, spread fig preserves on both sides of a split roll, and then layer on the bottom half of the roll grilled Haloumi cheese, and Kalamata olives. The top half of the roll is then replaced and the sandwich is grilled.
The Roasted Broccoli Sandwich is an adaptation from an Alton Brown recipe, which he adapted from a New York City sandwich shop. I was skeptical about the ingredients at first, but the first few bites won me over. It’s one of my favorite sandwiches. I’ve experimented with swapping out the broccoli with roasted cauliflower but it didn’t have the same zing.