Val & I are are working on a joint project. It’s loosely based around sandwiches, and in this case around “The Korean Gangster” from the book “Max’s Sandwich Book” by the inimitable Max Halley...
This short piece is thanks to her questions:
He was a simple man, he lived simply, he ate simply, he cooked simply. His sandwiches are simple. But in that dedication to simplicity lay their genius. The ingredients were commonplace. Not poor, just the ones he’d find in the cupboard
His kitchen was a little room, a few feet square, all he could afford. But he had a small work surface, a sink, a double burner cooker and an overhead grill. With that he could cook everything he needed.
He always ate a sandwich at midday. Every day, on the dot of 11, he decided on the ingredients. And then decided how to get that into the the sandwich. To get his hot, cold, sweet, crunchy, soft & sour mojo working.
There was only ever him eating it now. His companion of many years had died a few months ago. He had no relatives. His only friends lived in another city, miles and miles away. He’d not seen any of them for a year or more. So just him. Each day.
He ate it at the same kitchen table that he and his wife would use each day. Battered, scarred, with some burns. That even sounded like him. His life in the shape of a table. But it was reliable. Like him. It was steady. Like him. It was a fixture. Like him
Every day, midday, on the dot of 12 he’d eat. A routine. One that he felt he needed more everyday. He missed her. He missed her laughter, her teasing, her jokes. She kept him happy. And in return he’d fed her. It wasn’t the same now.
He used to prepare her sandwiches as though she’d bought them from a good sandwich bar. Encased in grease-proof paper, tied with colourful string, sometimes even a little note tucked inside, a thought for the day or a poem he’d enjoyed.
Today’s one smelt strongly of kimchi. That and garlic and that gravy Mayo that he loved making — even now — with the remains of the roast he’d had the previous day.
He knew what it would taste like even before he tried it. Because he was good. He knew he was good, he knew how things would work together, work in harmony (or as a counter balance for one of the strong elements). This one would be sharp, rich, deep.
There’s that first crunch as his teeth sunk through the bread, down into the deep fried noodles, into the lettuce. Then almost a splash as he met the mayo and the gravy and the beef. The sound inside his head was a melange.
The sandwich was deep, full, bulging. His always were. Even if there were only 4 or 5 ingredients, there was no hint of parsimony. His was a generosity of spirit. And that was her doing.
The noodles were his secret weapon if truth be told. He’d no idea that shop bought noodles and packaged ramen would work so well when deep fried. It had been a revelation when he’d experimentally dripped them into the hot oil.
If he was selling this in a shop, he’d charge at least £7 for it. Damn, it was worth every penny. His skills, his use of ingredients, his effortless expertise in his subject. People would pay that much for this delight. To him, free of course, but he always thought of a shop.
He’d never have a shop of course now. He had no savings, no real income, no way of starting out afresh at his age. But he knew he’d have been a success at it. She’d told him so many times. He wished she was here. He wished she was still pushing him…