When I think of a ham sandwich, my thoughts turn dreary, riddled with visions of insipid supermarket ham, bread soaked in low-fat mayo. But that association is a mockery of what the ham sandwich should be. No, this is not the fault of the food!
I am crying to think of the injustice served to such a noble character. It started with the bread, I think, the 'Wonder' of imitations, bread turned into a mockery of itself. First came the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, then the long list of unpronouceable preservatives, and then the high fructose corn syrup. My tears have turned to sickness, nausea, to think of the loaves of bread, turned into chemical spongesand trucked around the country. I do not feel any wonder, except maybe, how could we do this to ourselves?
Then the ham, a product utterly disconnected from its artisan roots, ripped from pigs made to live in their own prodigious filth, fed corn byproducts, then cooked and processed and tinged with coloring, artificial flavor, chopped and reconstituted and formed into "slices" that slimed their way out of packages in kitchens everywhere, in the days of my youth. You are not ham.
Of what use is it to analyze the other ingredients in the lunchtime staple, the one which I refused to eat as a child? Instead let us look at my ham sandwich, the ham sandwich of a new day, the sandwich that makes me wail, what have we wrought these past 100 years? Surely small good.
But all is not lost. Voget Meats, in the tiny town of Hubbard, Oregon, makes ham whose simplicity and honesty brightens my twenty-first century lunchtime. I serve it on thick slices of homemade sandwich bread, with plenty of Cremerie Classique butter and spoonfuls of ginger rhubarb jam from Winters Farms. I bite into the sandwich and swoon at its significance, its way of transporting me back to the 19th century (though I am working at my computer as I eat). Another day I slice the ham ultra-thin and toast the bread and make sandwiches with aged local cheese and a measure of garlic-braised winter greens. The ham sandwich has been reborn!
I wanted to talk, in this dark days challenge, about my many delicious dishes with potatoes (like that red huckleberry potato salad, served with roasted beets, made simply with local leeks, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise -- still a non-local product as I haven't enough eggs yet to make my own), my Strawberry Mountain urban farmer's pie, my French onion soup, my pear butter, my chicken salad, my barbecue chicken pizza and enchiladas made with my own tortillas. But instead I find myself thinking about bread, night and day.
The rhythm of my days now centers around bread making, I wake in the morning and take out a piece of dough, turn on the oven, and then busy about the house changing diapers and checking email. A little before 9, the loaf comes out and I slice into it immediately, taking thick pieces with my pear honey butter and butter to my office with my coffee. At lunchtime, the boys get little slices of plain bread with chunks of ham or leftover chili or Niman Ranch hot dogs. On weekend mornings, I roll a handfull ofAt night, as I head toward bed, I think first of my container of bread dough. If it's empty, I stand at the counter in my pajamas, stirring yeast into water, pouring in honey, mixing in flour. I stand over my work, satisfied, at home in my stolen century.