Welcome to the first issue of The Mustard Sandwich, a snack of a newsletter featuring everyday stories on people and food. Like all good sandwiches, each bimonthly episode of this pungent periodical has three sections.
Busy Eaters Short stories on hard working folks and their meal times. My life has been full of quick lunches – first as an immigrant family business kid, then a business owner, and now teacher. I love learning about what people eat on the go and how it fuels their creativity.
Tweeter’s Tiffin For those of you who don’t know, tiffin carriers are multi-tiered Indian lunchboxes. Twitter rather reminds me of this steely cornucopia of munchy tidbits and, since most tiffins have three compartments, I’ll spotlight three delectable Tweets and where they took me.
Bread Holes Peering through the carby periscope into interesting goings on. In this section I’ll share a couple of links to stories, videos, sites, and other media that I found hilarious, insightful, or downright leavening – food related or perhaps not!
Here we go! Needless to say, not every issue will contain such a lengthy preamble.
To kick off, I’ll share a story about the lunch that started it all – my infamous mustard sandwich. Teaching is my second career. My first act was the hospitality service industry and working in commercial kitchens. Both of my parents are gifted cooks and launched a successful food products business in the 1980s. Our home and the small factory we went to everyday after school were a makeshift culinary school. This came up during my job interview at the school and my future boss even made a comment about how exciting my school lunches might be. I thought so too, at the time.
Fast forward to the thick of being a first year teacher: me scrambling like a gerbil to keep up with the learning curve and needs of students. Lunch, which boiled down to twenty minutes after I got through peeing and making it through the microwave line, was my only moment of peace during the day. My lunches were elaborate for a while – a leftover soba noodle stir fry with baked tofu, perhaps. Or a schmancy microwaveable entree from Trader Joe’s. But as the weeks went on and my duties became more complex, it all went to hell. I also realized that real lunches made me sleepy, and I needed a builder’s tea before the first afternoon class period to stay upright. That shaved off another five minutes because it required running to and fro the fancy office water cooler that also dispensed a rolling calcified boil.
So I did what any self-respecting person would do under the circumstances. I abandoned all of my lunchmaking standards and stashed a $1.99 loaf of Dave’s Killer Bread, bag of Sargento’s pepper jack slices, and Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard in the musty teachers’ lounge fridge for everyday emergency sandwich assembly. (I included links in case of any of these companies want to sponsor me next term).
Believe it or not, the sandwiches were surprisingly tasty. They hit all of my salt cravings, and the cheese added a nice creamy capsaicin punch. An occasional apple elevated the experience, but it was an indulgence I saved for days when I had my copies made ahead of time. So pretty much never.
My mustard sandwiches became the talk of the lunchroom, starting many a conversation with then-acquaintances-now-friends. And when the pandemic first hit, I often reminisced about those occasionally stale slices even when I could fix a better lunch teaching from home – because they were attached to moments of hilarity at school and wonderful people I so dearly missed.
@shitfoodblogger’s disappearing lines Metaphor for life, and good cooking. If you use the cups enough and the lines start fading, you likely no longer need them. They’re like training wheels that go away on their own. As time goes by we discover our own boundaries, and how to live and cook by the right measure.
@restofesto on the restaurant labor shortage A brilliant read on the modern day slavery that is the back kitchen job. Done right, hospitality can attract some of the most vibrant, creative, and energetic talent. We can still fix this if we reward our hardest workers with living wages and dignity.
@yashatova Jane Fonda making pasta in 1960 No reason for sharing other than adoration for one of my timeless screen and style icons, Jane Fonda. I’m curious about who took the pictures. They were likely for a shoot, but look so natural – like she was your fun neighbor friend and you could just go over to her apartment next door and gab over spaghetti.
@StacyJaneGrover discusses her humiliating experiences growing up trans in smalltown Ohio, and how bonding with others over food in culinary school and restaurants emboldened her pursuit of identity. I especially appreciated the thoughts on “refusing in place” – refusing dominant race, gender, regions, and cuisine in favor of inexplicable authenticity.
I read this somewhat in the mindset of school reopening in the states. It’s something I thought about often as we blindly and distrustfully waded through 2020, suddenly having to be paranoid of others touching lettuce heads at the grocery store. I hope there will come a day when our fears about each other will subside because I miss your germs – all of yall’s. Even my students who lick their fingers after eating Flaming Hot Cheetos and then touch the computers. Ok, maybe not that part.
Until next time!