Sunday, January 11, 2009

We Can Make Sandwiches

One thing that comes with unemployment is time. Lots of time. And one thing that comes with Chicago in the winter is snow. Lots of snow. Snow + Time in real life could be very exciting. It means sledding and snow men and skiing and log cabins. Snow + Time + No Income, on the other hand, means stir craziness. I mean, this is basically what happened in The Shining. Ice, snow, lots of quiet, and slowly ticking clocks. Add weird spirit happenings and an axe and it gets ugly.

SO, I had to get out of the house today. I called my friend up, and cleverly convinced him that we needed to make sandwiches. See, he's told me that he loves to make sandwiches. So I knew he would go for it. Plus, he's always been really supportive of me. In fact, he's the one who told/ordered me to write this blog. And sandwiches are a great way to pack a lot of flavor into something that doesn't necessarily need to cost that much. So I got on my bike and rode to the store, then his house. Yes, I rode through the 12 inches + of snow we've gotten over the past few days. Yes it was difficult. But the transit system just raised the El fares again, and it basically costs about 5 bucks to go round trip. I could be spending that on PBR.

So, I picked up his favorite, roast beef. I don't know why this guy likes roast beef so much. I mean, I like it too, but this is the only sandwich meat I have ever heard him talk about. It's kind of funny. So I indulge him. And it was on sale. I'll take that wherever I can get it. I picked up some chips as all important sandwich item; I remember as a kid, loving the texture without understanding why when I put chips in sandwiches. Soft and crunchy is one of the most satisfying feelings ever--a PB&J with chips in between, chips and guacamole, chips and rice or beans. And non-chip items like a great crust from a hard sear on a nice piece of fish, with soft, flaky flesh inside. Crusty, toasted, buttery bread that breaks apart to melted, gooey cheese. Crisp red onion snapping and giving way to a juicy cheeseburger.

ANYWAY, I made the nordic trek up to his house, and got there just as he was leaving the house. See, the thing is, there was a bit of a lapse of urgencies; we were both going to go to the store, get our assigned items (me: meat and chips, him: fixin's and bread. Possibly unnecessary explanation: My idea being that fixin's and bread are things that you have left over after sandwich making so he'd be able to keep these things as we were doing this at his house.), and meet back at his place. He really dragged his feet and I, thus, would accompany him to the store to get his items.

But it was a good thing, because we went up to a market on Morse Avenue, oddly called Morse Market, and it was a world apart from the chain grocery that I've been having to go to in order to keep things as absolutely cheap as possible. It's a tight little market, no room in the melted snow-covered aisles for the huge winter coats, carts, and baskets. But as I told my friend, I love markets like that...for the same reason I love living near the El. It makes me know that I live in the city. And this market had the most pristinely organized food ever. Each pepper had a place, every banana lay in order; the bags of lentils and beans were fully stocked and aligned as were the cans. It was almost weird how organized it was, and not in a Whole Foods/Stepford Wives kind of way. My friend explained it was called "facing", something he learned in his early years as a stocker in a grocery store.

SO, we picked up some things. He had mayo, but wanted to dress it up because it was "you know, a weird, flax-seed oil type mayonnaise." I thought we could put horseradish in it--but only fresh. They didn't have any. So despite admitting it was a cop-out, he grabbed a can of chipotles and we decided we'd spice up the mayo with that and some roasted garlic. At first, we grabbed this crazy loaf of rye bread, but then we later, by the deli, found this great Armenian Rye bread baked by Levinson's Bakery, on Devon Avenue, not far from us at all. We jumped at that (I love that also, in small stores like this, "local" products are often just kind of the norm, as opposed to the sought after, high priced, farmer's market-type things), and got some red leaf lettuce and red onion. Then we got out of there and walked back to his apartment, stopping at a coffee shop.

Can you believe some people will spend $5+ on a cup of coffee?

So, we started assembling the sandwiches; then I just sat back and let him do it. He loves it, and he had ideas for it, so I let him get after it. He roasted the garlic, chopped it up, mixed it into the mayo with the adobo sauce from the chipotles, toasted the bread, and piled everything on, with some swiss cheese. We drank some beer and watched tv, welcome diversions. It's funny how tv looks after not seeing it for awhile. Since I don't have a tv, I forget what it's like. It was captivating. And consuming.

But it was a great time, and therapeutic, and the sandwiches were simple and great. And, at the end, we ate a couple of pieces of pecan pie from the coffee shop just for good measure. The stir crazies, if only temporarily, were pacified.