When I was little, visiting my great grandmother meant crowding around her little kitchen table while she cooked and fussed. The adults would laugh and talk, and within no time there would be food on the table.
Usually it was chicken pot pie. And let’s just be clear. I’m not talking about some messed up creamy thing with frozen vegetables and a crust. Grammy Great’s pot pie was a steaming bowl of magic; a rich and salty golden broth, each spoonful bursting with chicken flavor, the homemade egg noodles light and fluffy, like little pillows of deliciousness. (Unless my Pap and I got ahold of them. We’d sneak around her and scrunch them up so they’d be kind of tough when they cooked in the simmering broth). And of course, there was chicken. Pot pie wasn’t right without a plate of pan-fried chicken thighs. Is there a better piece of chicken than a perfectly cooked thigh? Don’t think so.
The house was always too hot, and after you packed everyone in, plus all the cooking, the air got so thick you could feel it settle on your skin. The little window over the sink would steam over, making the room a bit of a red neck sauna. It got close.
But it didn’t matter. It didn’t even matter that there was a perfectly nice living room a few feet away, probably with cooler air. But that was for comp’ny, and we were family. So we crowded around the little table in the kitchen and laughed like hell over endless bowls of Charlotte’s pot pie.
My whole life has been full of women expressing their love through food. For better or worse, it’s part of who I am.
So now, as an adult, I take pride in the lunches I make for my family every morning. My husband likes his sandwich with toasted bread, my daughter not so much. My husband likes peppers and manchego with his ham, my daughter prefers provolone and black olives.
Over the years, I’ve taken some criticism for being an over-stuffer. I guess a big sandwich is hard to eat, or so they say. But a thin, wimpy sandwich is sad and tells the world, very clearly, that your mother doesn’t love you.
So I stuff.
You can imagine, then, how it went the day my daughter told me that her sandwiches had become famous at school.
I puffed up with pride, imagining other kids with sad PB&J’s, jealous of her delicious ham and cheese.
“Yeah,” she said, “they call you Drippy the Sandwich Fail because everyday I have to eat a sloppy mess. The bread is so soggy I almost have to squeeze it out. It’s pretty gross.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, my mouth hanging open.
“Because I knew you’d freak,” she said casually. “It’s no big deal. It’s just funny.”
“No big deal?” I stammered, my delusions of sandwich grandeur slipping away. I could almost hear the other mothers whispering. Poor girl. Can you imagine? Nothing for lunch but a soggy sandwich…
“Not really,” she said, grinning. “Why are you being crazy?”
“I don’t know! Because! Because it’s just…it’s my expression of love. And it’s all jacked up!” By this point I was pacing around the kitchen, in full lunatic mode.
“You’re expression of love? Really?” Insert generic teenage disdain.
Exactly, I thought. Like when I sent little notes in your lunch box and cut your bread into cute heart shapes.
I sighed and laughed. It was pretty funny. Drippy the Sandwich Fail kind of has a ring to it.
Since then we’ve nixed the black olives, which were soaking into the bread all morning causing the problem. I guess her sandwiches are better. I don’t ask anymore. If it matters, she’ll tell me.
Just the other day she came home smiling.
“Mitchell forgot his lunch today, so I gave him half of my sandwich.”
I slumped. Feeding your own kid a soggy mess is one thing, but other people’s kids? Not okay.
“He loved it. In fact, he laughed and said ‘Drippy the Sandwich Fail makes a pretty good sandwich after all.’ Thought you’d want to know.”
It made my day. Not only because it was culinary vindication, but because she knew I needed to know. And besides, if Drippy the Sandwich Fail is the worst thing her friends call me, well, how bad can things be?