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A Sandwich is a Start

ham sandwichIn the past few weeks I’ve been complaining writing about my new issues with food, particularly my lack of appetite, and lack of interest in cooking, but rather than sit idly by, I decided to make myself a great sandwich, and a sandwich is a start. This was no ordinary sandwich though; I was going to make the bread, and get the best ham I’ve ever had.

Though I started the bread Sunday afternoon, I didn’t bake it until Monday. I believe it’s a variation on Jim Lahey’s famous no-knead bread from the Sullivan Street Bakery. It is called no-knead ciabatta, and is very easy, though a two-day process. It produces a delicious bread that will make a noble sandwich. I have prepared carefully for my sandwich, including making a trip to Kensington Quarters to buy the ham. I tried it first at the Eat Retreat Pop-up last June. I figure making a sandwich from bread I baked was a good way to begin my journey back to cooking and enjoying my food.

Making bread is easy, and disproportionally satisfying for the effort involved. I mixed up the dough, which took about ten minutes, then put that into a bowl, covered it and let the yeast do all the hard work. Eighteen hours later I moved it to a cornmeal dusted pan, waited another two hours, and put it into the oven for thirty minutes. The house already smelled yeasty and bread-y this morning, and once it was in the oven, it got better and better. I don’t know if there is anything more gratifying than tearing off a still-warm piece of bread, and slathering it with butter (sorry chocolate).

When I first started working at Whole Foods Market, and life was simpler, my friend Jill who was one of the team leaders in the bakery would come up to the office almost every day with a fresh, hot baguette and a ramekin of butter for anyone nearby to share. It never stopped being a wonderful interruption of whatever we were working on, and it helped create community among the various team leaders sharing that messy, crazy office. If someone did that now they’d risk losing their job, and though I understand the reasoning, I also know what it means in terms of the loss of that community building of literally breaking bread together.

ciabatta slice

Sadly there was no one but me at my house when the bread came out of the oven, but the goal for this project was a selfish one—to wake my slumbering culinary spirit. I had to wait for the bread to cool enough to tear off a piece, but the waiting allowed me time to anticipate the taste and savor the aromas filling the house. I didn’t want too much; I wanted to want that ham sandwich I’d been planning since yesterday, and I wanted to be hungry for it, and I was. The bread to meat ratio wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t entering this sandwich into a competition, I just wanted to eat something I had carefully prepared for myself. I put Dijon mustard in the bottom and butter on the top, then layered the ham for maximum flavor, making sure there would be some of the silky fat in every bite.

It was a delicious sandwich, and I did pull out some of the bread from the top piece, but otherwise it was just what I wanted to want. There is plenty of bread left, and I’m sure my daughter will be happy about that. Did this sandwich fix me? Of course not. There isn’t one thing that will fix me, and I’m OK with that. I think the slow road is the best one to take. I’ll be more aware of the choices I make, I’ll be more mindful of how hungry I am, and ideally make better decisions about what I do and don’t eat. I hope I’ll be more inclined to getting back to cooking. I’m not much of a baker, but that’s all I feel like doing, so tomorrow I may make some cookies. But a sandwich was a good start.

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