Funny how certain foods become associated with certain people. A chicken sandwich is my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Giggi. It seemed to me that whenever we left her house in Syracuse for the interminable drive home, she always made chicken sandwiches for the road. And by some divine understanding, she made mine on soft rye bread with butter and mustard, nothing else. A sandwich made with love and meant to be eaten in the back seat.
I was thinking about her the other day, and I had some leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge. So I made Giggi’s sandwich and I was tempted to wrap it in tin foil and eat it in the car. Instead I sat outside in the Zen garden and thought she would’ve liked the view there.
Tonight Panda and did a little shopping in DeCicco’s, and as usual she came to life in the cheese section and hunted down a little block of pecorino romano for herself. “Your Nonna would’ve loved you,” I said, referring to Giggi’s father, who made a living importing olive oil and cheese, although his specialty was asiago.
“Do you think he would’ve liked me?” Panda asked.
And he died before I was born, I never knew him at all, but I knew the stories so without hesitation I answered, “Nonno liked everybody.”
We bought two rotisserie chickens, rye bread, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, the pecorino for her and goat cheese for me. I remembered to get dishwashing liquid, and strawberry jam for camp sandwiches. When we got home I fixed her a chicken sandwich on rye with lettuce and tomato and just a scraping of mustard. “I think this is my new favorite sandwich,” she said, eating even the crusts.
It’s how we keep things alive.