Yes, I heard what the weatherman…uh…weatherperson said. That we have sun on the way but I can hardly believe it. All I am seeing are those gray, oppressive clouds that render me sleepy, sleepy, sleepy. I know what I said back here about winter being peaceful and restorative but I think I must have been having a zen moment that day….that one day. Besides feeling sleepy, I feel out of sync and a bit frazzled. You see, my friend, everything that I put off from Halloween to New Year’s back when we were filled with holiday cheer and decking the halls and ho, ho, ho…well, all of that back-log has landed squarely on my
When I feel like this…that peculiar combination of sleepy and frazzled all at once…I lack focus and I find myself uninspired. Not even food…my trusty companion…who I always can count on to pull me out of my sluggishness…to provide me with some spark of inspiration or a flicker of motivation…is helping me out.
My daughter and I had quietly made our way across the city in the early morning weekend hours last Saturday. Yes, it was pouring down rain. I actually had to open an umbrella when I ran out of the car to get myself a much needed latte. (Here in Oregon, in case you don’t live here and are wondering, even though it rains continually, we don’t use an umbrella most of the time. We just get used to being a little bit damp all of the time. It’s only during a downpour that we actually pop one up.) The sky was gray. Gray as in…um…cement. (Wow…that was original.) I was sleepy and truth be told, a little grumpy, for no apparent reason. After making sure she was properly settled in, I left my darling daughter at the edge of the city to dance her heart away for the next 48 hours, while I crept back towards home. My only, single, thought during that return trip was the fact that when I arrived home, 3 ravenous male persons would be waiting for me.
I made a bit of a detour and turned into one of my most favorite grocery stores (the Burnside location in particular.) Even if you don’t actually buy anything in this store, it’s such a treat just to go in there and “window shop”. The food is laid out so beautifully. One can’t help but feel a rush of excitement at the prospect of preparing food for one’s family. I headed straight to the already prepared food since I was feeling none of the aforementioned excitement. I figured I’d grab the boys a few sandwiches and call it good. I stared at the sandwiches in the case. The same sandwiches that I had happily devoured many times before. They seemed to be smaller than I remember. They appeared to measure, maybe, 3 inches of baguette length…all for the price of 5 buckaroos. In my grumpy-gills state of mind, I thought, “That’s ridiculous. They don’t even have lettuce on there and besides, when I’ve had those before, the balance of flavors has all been off. There was no proper ingredient ratio. I’m making these myself.” And, with that, I huffed off to gather the ingredients.
I ordered up a 1/2 pound of sliced, french ham. Yes, that’s what it’s called folks…french ham. And, I believe this to be the perfect, sandwich ham. Not too salty. Not too sweet. Just….ham. Leaving the deli counter, I grabbed some gruyere cheese and then, scooped up a baguette, fresh from Ken’s Artisan Bakery. In my humble opinion, Ken’s makes the best baguette for sandwiches in our dear city. That perfect crispy crust to chewy interior ratio. (Have you noticed that I have a thing for proper flavor ratios?) (By the way…Pearl Bakery and Lovejoy Bakers, make a close second…in my opinion, that is.)
Arriving home, I unloaded my supplies, and without much thought, set about making the ‘Jambon et Fromage’ sandwiches. I sliced up the baguette which released it’s heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread. A thin layer of mayonnaise on one side and thin layer of delicatessen mustard on the other. A couple slices of ham and a couple of cheese. A crack of the pepper mill and a handful of baby greens. All set on a plate with a pickle. “Luuunnnnchhhhhh, is ready!!!!!!!” And, with that I turned back around to clean up the bread crumbs that were scattered across the counter and cutting board.
I heard the thumping of feet and the scraping of the chair legs as the boys settled in to eat. In my sleepiness, I continued with my cleaning. Not paying much heed to those eating away. But, then, after a minute or two, a cry, broke through the fogginess brain. “Oh, my gosh, Mom!!! Mom!!! This is the BEST sandwich I have EVER had!!! I LOVE it!!! I want this in my lunch for school. You HAVE to tell everyone on your blog about it!!” There, was my 10-year old, with excitement brimming in his eyes, scarfing down his sandwich while trying to express his love for it at the same time. His cheeks were flushed as he stood there…one foot on his chair, one foot on the ground (yes, we’re still working on sitting while eating)…and he looked positively delighted with this simple bit of nourishment.
I realized later that it was his enthusiasm that managed to kick me out of my funk. To feel a rush of enthusiasm, no matter the weather, over something as seemingly, insignificant as a ham and cheese sandwich, was just what I needed. I’ve continued to make these same sandwiches all week long, hoping to further pull me out of my grogginess and into a state of excitement. I’m not quite there but these sandwiches are definitely helping.
A ‘Jambon et Fromage’ Sandwich
The handful of times I have been fortunate enough to actually eat french ham in France, I have found that ham to be superior to any I’ve ever had. There’s something about its freshness. It doesn’t taste as if it’s been pumped up with other flavors…just a mild, delicate taste about it. Yes, it does cost about $1 more a pound than regular ham but you really don’t need much so in the end we’re talking about a few pennies more. As for the gruyere, you could substitute swiss cheese, but it definitely has a stronger taste and then, if you’re me, you’ll find the ratio of flavors is all off. Make sure you seek out the best baguette your city or town offers. And, here’s a little tip, if you’re like me and don’t have a boulangerie within walking distance of your front door: Baguettes are always best when eaten the same day they’ve been made but that isn’t always realistic for me since I tend to buy them and then want to use them in my children’s lunches the following days. So, bring your baguette home. Cut it in 4 or 5 inch sections and then halve those sections. Pop the pieces in a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. Then, when you are making a sandwiches in the morning to be consumed later in the day, prepare the sandwich directly on the frozen bread. It will defrost while it’s in the lunchbox and when you (or he or she) go to eat it….voila…the bread is defrosted and tastes as fresh as the day you bought it…well, almost.
sliced, french ham (Madrange ham is the kind I buy locally.)
thinly, sliced gruyere cheese (If you live near a Trader Joe’s, they carry a delicious variety of gruyere.)
mayonnaise (Best Foods…what else?)
delicatessen style mustard (I love Boar’s Head.)
freshly, ground black pepper
a handful of baby greens (or for the kids, some romaine)
Ken’s Artisan Bakery baguette or the best baguette you can find, freshly baked
Cut your baguette into sections, 4, 5, 6 inches depending on how hungry you are. Slice those sections in half. Spread a bit of mayonnaise on one side and a bit of mustard on the other….go easy on the mustard though. You don’t want it to overpower the other flavors. Gently lay down a couple slices of ham. A few slices of cheese…like the mustard, go easy on the cheese. It also has a very strong flavor. Crack the pepper mill a few times over the ham and cheese and if you must, you can sprinkle a pinch of salt as well. Grab a handful of baby greens and tuck them in as you put the “top” on the sandwich. Add a pickle on the side. Enjoy.
PS: BTW…(yes, I know I’m talking in “teen text speak” but….btw….) I wanted to let you know, my dear friends, that I won’t be posting my pictures for my Project 365 on La Pomme any longer but should you be curious how that
“What was I thinking?” little project is going, please feel free to click on the “Flickr badge” at any time, located on the lower right hand side of this page. Once there, click on the photo set entitled, “2010 at a Glance” and it will take you right to that growing bunch of photos.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010