Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Ode To Ham Sandwiches Past

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.


Buck said...

HOL-EEE CRAP! He's a poet, too! ;-)

Pretty danged good, Jim. Kudos.

Mariann Simms said...

I believe...altho it's just from my memory way before Google was invented, as I didn't Google now...that there are two sports where you can only play right-handed. Polo is one and this is the other...and it's because of safety issues with both. Might be fact...might be remembering an old Jeopardy! answer wrong. Who knows! :)

Ham rules, btw.

Absolut Ruiness said...

Great poem Sul! You have written poetry before but this is the best. Maybe because its about food.

sandyland said...

It's so cool the memories of special foods, some restaurants and eateries long gone

Lil said...

Mmmm... a ham sandwich. With cheese. And mustard. And fresh, cruchy lettuce. Yes indeedy...

Alison said...

Thanks, now I'm hungry for lunch and it's only 10:15am. Do you have a Favorite type of ham? What is Danish ham?(From Denmark?) How about Black Forest Ham? (kinda weird name for a ham). You could do a post just on HAM! The sandwiches you ate, was the ham boiled or baked? Honey or Coppa ham? I love a baked ham sandwich, the ham, a leftover, carved from the baked ham Mom served at Sunday's noontime meal, placed between two slices of Wonder bread with just a bit of French's mustard dotted throughout. YUM. It's been a long time since I've had one of those. Your poetry is delicious to read as the memories it evoked!

Pearl said...

Never seen jai alai, but you're not the first person to recommend it!

And, of course, I now want a ham sandwich.


Karen said...

Nice poem :) I remember some coleslaw I ate when I was 7 or 8 years old from a little corner deli in MA. It was crunchy, but not raw, and cut into long thin slices with a creamy, delicious dressing. I've been trying to duplicate that slaw forever! I think I'm coming close :)

Michelle H. said...

Weird. I know of Jai Alai only because it was a word I once found in a dictionary and it has stuck in my head ever since. Very nice poem about ham sandwiches. My friend was in England the end of September to see the Steelers play. He hated all the food there except for (I think) the bacon and tomato sandwiches.

Sueann said...

It is amazing how foods bring back so many delicious memories.....well said dear friend.

messymimi said...

Very few meals have stayed in my memory that way. Trips through London, yes.

Suldog said...

To answer a few questions...

In both instances, the ham was the boiled type that one might find at a deli or supermarket deli counter, thin-sliced; what I'd expect if I ordered a half-pound of Danish ham, say.

Ham is wonderful with boiled potatoes, cabbage, carrots - what is usually known, around these parts, as a New England Boiled Dinner. Mmmmmmmm! The leftovers are even better than when it is first served.

Baked ham is lovely, also. I don't believe there's any sort of ham I don't like. That's why I've striven to be one, myself, for much of my adult life.

silly rabbit said...

Ha! A lovely tale in prose. Now that I am hungry... I shall go find something to eat.

Chris said...

I loved the part about the horses who raced, and in your rush how you used your post-haste.

Jackie said...

I've been to a Jai-Alai game (once.)
I loved watching it....but methinks they could be rigged.
Whaddya think?
I dunno...but it was exciting to watch.
I titled my latest blog for (after) you.
When you go there, you'll see why.
You Beast, you.

Babs said...

Love the poem. Did you create that? In Fern Park , Florida the old Jai Alai landmark has bit the dust. It's now something else with betting I think. Sad, it used to be THEE place to go in the day from my understanding. Down the street and round the corner is the dog still is open.
As for ham sandwiches...I only think of the actual ham my dad would fix for Easter and it was wonderful with the raisin gravy over mashed potaoes.. don't turn up your nose....the raisins offset the can throw them out..anyways ham sandwiches later in the day..yum.
Great Story.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip said...

I've been to the Jai Alai Fronton in Tijuana one time it still there? ...and that's because it had a bar, the same reason I've been to Aqua Caliente Race Track, which is long gone.
Can't say I ever had a ham sandwich at either.
That said, I have had any number of ham sandwiches and enjoyed them.
Can't say I can single any one out.
Shucks, I can't even begin to estimate how many I might have even made.
I do remember the hams we used to slice for the sandwiches we made back when still enjoyed being a pizza cook.
Mmmmmmn, mmmmn, mmmmn!

Sausage said...

I have met some of the world's most unique creatures at a late night Jai-Alai match in Miami. MIllionaires and dregs sitting side by side watching this strange yet intruging game. In Miami especially South Miami it's the Cubans that dominate the sport and the food carts outside the venue were in my opionion world class grub.
Cheers, Sausage (Back in the living)

Mich said...

Please send that poem to some literary magazine for possible publication because it is brilliant.

The best meals do seem to come from the dingiest/sketchiest places.... I love me some Xaviar's food, but I have to say that the best meals that pop into my memory first are the burgers from the no-name diner in Nyack (we named the "Hazmat"), the cheesesteaks from the filthiest of all the greasecarts in Philadelphia, and the crab cakes at the random restaurant in an abandoned building in Maine....

lime said...

hey, i've written poetry about chocolate so i see no reason not to have odes to ham sandwiches! and i've always wanted to see a jai alai match myself.

Anonymous said...

Some of the best sandwiches I ever had were the ham and cheese variety, made with my Grandmother's hands. Nothing fancy but I could taste the love! Maybe one day I'll write an ode to them - but it won't be as good as yours!

A Daft Scots Lass said...

You should've tried the bacon sarnies.

Hilary said...

Gotta love Suldoggerel.