Thursday, October 17, 2013
The other day, MY WIFE and I were discussing the best meals we've ever had. We talked about wonderful feasts in five-star restaurants, but it turns out some of the most memorable treats we've eaten were decidedly pedestrian. They were magnificent not so much because of top-shelf ingredients or sterling preparation, but because we were hungry as hell. And, for me, into that category fall some ham sandwiches eaten in Mexico and England.
One night at a fronton in Mexico City
Jai-Alai (a fast game, and also quite pretty)
I'd been there three hours, maybe some change
True pangs of hunger had come into range
I'd heard a warning to not drink the water
And don't eat strange foods that you shouldn't oughter
But there, for two pesos, just under the stand
Yummy ham sandwiches that looked oh so grand
No lunch, and no dinner; My mouth salivating!
I reached in my pocket; no time for waiting!
The roll nice and crunchy, and on the inside
An oddly green condiment came for the ride
I have no idea what that condiment was
I sure wish I knew; I would buy some becuz
It was lovely and smoky and just the right touch
Jai-Alai ham sandwich! I loved you so much!
(I have a cast-iron stomach, it seems
That sandwich came back, but only in dreams)
Then, on another day, horses were racing
A cool English Saturday, a wind somewhat bracing
Again, food was something I hadn't had lately
And, yes, I again wanted something quite greatly
For five shillings sixpence my old friend was had!
This time with mustard, both me and My Dad
Had two or three each, they were so good and tasty
And we still made next post because we were hasty
It kept us both happy until Putney Bridge
The coldest damn station, as cold as a fridge
But that's a sad tale for some other day
And it damages ham's reputation no way
I suppose I could tell you of hot ox tail soup
In an Irish inn after a trudge through some goop
But I won't keep you and bore you to tears
With all of the garbage I've et through the years
(I felt that these sandwiches should get their due
So now that they have, good morning to you!)
If you've never been to a Jai-Alai game, you should go. It's pronounced "high lie" and it's the damnedest sport around. As you can see from the photo above, the players wear huge long baskets (called cestas) on their hands. They use these to propel the ball (the pelota) off the concrete walls at speeds up to 180 miles per hour. The ball is about three-quarters the size of a baseball and as hard as a rock. It is one of the world's fastest games, and also one of the most dangerous. It is, so far as I can tell, always played professionally in settings which allow betting on the outcome. I find it endlessly fascinating, and I would attend it often if it was played anywhere near where I live (which it isn't.)
Here's Putney Bridge Station, on the District Line of the London Underground, except Putney Bridge Station is NOT underground. It is an elevated station near to the Thames, and on a cold night, with the wind blowing in off the river, polar bears would feel very much at home there.
On that day, I had dressed in a short sleeve shirt, no jacket, and was OK until the train stopped at Putney Bridge and we were told that the train was coming out of service for some reason or another. My Dad and I stood on that platform for a good 30 minutes waiting for another train to arrive and I froze my ass off. The ham sandwiches were so good, though, that they, and not that hideous station, remain the top memory of our day at the races.
(One can deduce from that last sentence that our wagers were not so memorable as to top either experience. You win some, you lose some, you have a sandwich. Such is life.)
Soon, with more better stuff.