I grew up on descriptions of food by Enid Blyton. She mesmerized me with visions of scrumptious scones, huge chocolate cakes, sweet sticky lemonade, farm fresh golden butter and of course the crusty soft slices of beautiful white bread. Even a cold glass of frothy milk was elevated to the status of something heavenly in the pages of her books. I have mournfully worked my way through idly and dosa while reading about delicious marmalade, hard-boiled eggs and toast. Now I wonder whether I was crazy to ignore the delicious fluffy idlis and fragrant sambar and dream about toast. Just goes to show that my current level of madness was honed over many years 🙂
Anyway coming back to the saga of food, another favourite during my childhood was the sandwich. I had given it an aura of greatness partly because we rarely had it at home and partly because of the descriptions given by Enid Blyton (She does have a lot to answer for !) When I read of slices of pink ham placed between thick crusty slices of fresh bread, I was ready to run away from home and stow away on a steamer to London. All these delectable items were available in the country side of England and that was my target. An innate sense of laziness combined with a slight fear of the dark curbed my tendencies to explore the world. And also I was having a lot of fun with friends. The level of deception required to get away from home was totally beyond me. Those were the days when my mother would take one look at me and find out that I had not done my homework, in spite of my attempts at Oscar-award level histrionics. So the question of secretly running away was slightly far-fetched even for my imagination.
Another contributing factor to my love of sandwiches was the lunch brought to school by a classmate when I was in Class 2. She was a very dainty child who brought sandwiches for lunch. Even though I loved food, the top priority during lunch time was to gobble food in record speed and proceed to the playground for playing. As we were cramming food into our mouths, she would carefully open her lunch box and delicately take out a sandwich, which was then artfully consumed. Her sandwiches were always cut into squares and I remember that she had beautiful fingers, with which she elegantly transported the bread to her mouth.
Growing up involved a journey of realization of the actual taste of certain kinds of food. It was with a pang that I faced up to the fact that hard-boiled eggs have only so much to them. A glass of milk is that and nothing more. Ham sandwiches were really not my cup of tea and don’t even get me started on scones. It was just differently shaped bread ! I apologise to the purists who will be ‘scornfully’ perusing my litany on scones.
However, my love for bread continues with the same intensity, though my favourite still remains the crusty loaves made by local bakeries. I love the rustic feel of the thick slabs of soft bread with a lovely aroma to it. Bread, butter and jam remains my favourite combination. With these kind of tastes, it’s particularly difficult for me when I go to eateries like Subway who insist on tormenting me with choices. I just want a normal sandwich, but nobody is willing to listen. I have to make so many decisions! And after the entire rigmarole of selecting umpteen things for a sandwich, I end up with something which I don’t particularly like !
So now I don’t venture into the realm of niche eateries, preferring to have my own decadent bread-butter-jam at home. Slathering the golden butter on to a soft slice of bread and sealing it with another slice with the barest minimum layer of jam, is my personal route to nirvana. No other flavour of jam is allowed to enter a sandwich than mixed-fruit. I love apple-cinnamon and various other stuff, but there’s nothing like mixed-fruit to enhance the flavor of the sandwich.
Nowadays it’s considered almost blasphemous to consume white bread, and there are a huge variety of artisan breads baked by extremely talented bakers. I too indulge in the different varieties, but my taste buds have been conquered by the mundane flavour of white bread.
I still indulge in a bit of Enid Blyton to catch up on childhood memories. The food descriptions do not affect me as much as it did earlier, but I do feel a bit hungry when there are midnight feasts at Mallory Towers and St Clairs, and the Famous Five tuck into picnic lunches packed lovingly by Aunt Fanny.