Wanna trade sandwiches? Didn’t think so…

I had a traumatic problem growing up, which I am sure had some sort of negative impact on my life: No one ever wanted to trade sandwiches with me at lunch during my years in school.

Now you could fairly say that was because my sandwiches were seen as somewhat odd. Some folks even found them disgusting for some reason. But just because a person really likes sardine sandwiches with mustard, a really good liver sausage sandwich, or some succulent pickled heart or tongue shouldn’t lead to being rebuffed for 12 straight years–no kindergarten when I was five, or I am sure the humiliation would have begun earlier.

My grandfather's father stirs the kettle while my grandmother gets ready to add a succulent hog's head to a simmering batch of homemade head cheese about 1915. I bet it tasted good, too.

My grandfather’s father stirs the kettle while my grandmother gets ready to add a succulent hog’s head to a simmering batch of homemade head cheese about 1915. I bet it tasted good, too.

I blame my family for introducing me to such wonderful things as head cheese. My grandparents were both of German descent, my grandmother from Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors and my grandfather from Germany, where both of his parents were born. My grandmother was a farm girl, but she married a city guy and they lived in Aurora for the first several years of their married life. But in those days, city homes were a lot like miniature farms. They usually had a carriage house/stable for a driving horse and/or the cow, a small smokehouse, and even a few chickens. And the foods city folks ate weren’t a whole lot different than the kinds of food country folks ate.

Head cheese, for instance, was something my grandparents (and great-grandparents, for that matter) made and ate in both town and country. It was, after all, the original homemade lunch meat. And the best of it–the homemade kind–is truly delicious. Honest.

But so are the other foods I was introduced to as a youngster. Pickled tong and pickled heart, for instance, make great sandwiches. Almost everyone will disagree with that, but, really, it seems to be more the idea of eating tongue and hear than the taste. As a female friend once explained to me: “I’m not going to make it and I’m not going to eat it if the first sentence of the recipe says you’re supposed to skin a beef tongue,” This from a woman who loved liver and onions.

What with my feelings toward such delicacies, it wasn’t much of a stretch to enjoy haggis when we traveled to Scotland back in the 1990s. Our Scottish hosts figured the pansy Americans would quail at the sight, much less enjoy a heaping plate of haggis, neeps, and tatties, but we ate and enjoyed. And the beer was to die for, too.

Anyway, here I sit an ancient person whose get up and go, as Pete Seeger put it, has got up and went, but who still likes a pickled heart or tongue sandwich, or maybe one of homemade head cheese, or how about a nice Oscar Meyer liver sausage and pepperjack sandwich with some fresh dill slices? Those kids who refused to trade their mundane bologna and cheese or PBJ sandwiches for a taste of heaven knew not what they were missing.



Filed under Farming, Food, Nostalgia, People in History

2 responses to “Wanna trade sandwiches? Didn’t think so…

  1. Pat

    We must not have sat together or I would have enjoyed the liver sausage and mustard, one that I also brought to school along with other choices of cream cheese and green olives, baked beans and pickle relish, and of course red onion and cheddar cheese on rye bread. Head cheese–not so much.

    • My mother used to regale me with stories of her days attending the one-room Tamarack School, when the poorer (everyone, apparently, was poor, but some were poorer than others) brought lard sandwiches to school. Not sure I could stomach that…

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