We used to have sandwiches in our lunch boxes every day at school. Vegemite when we were tiny, then, as a sign of our growing maturity, ham and salad when we moved to secondary school. White bread, margarine, sliced on the diagonal, wrapped in glad wrap. Sandwiches day in, day out.
There are no complaints here - it was a relatively healthy meal and it was kind of dependable. If everything was going wrong in your nine year old life (long division sucked and they'd run out of cheese popcorn in the canteen), you knew you'd be able to reach into your blue plastic lunch carrier and unwrap some of the salty black tar in between two white slices. Strange thing to look forward to, but I've never claimed to be the most normal child.
Every morning, we'd get dressed and the four of us would rush frantically out the door to chase the school bus down the road. On our way out, we'd grab our lunchbox from the bench and scoot. Paul's little lunchbox was blue. So was the container Mum used to keep the cheese.
One afternoon, Paul arrived home and was strangely quiet. Mum asked what was up. "Cheese", was all he could wail, "Cheeeeeese!" We finally figured out what had happened. Paul had opened his lunchbox at recess and found no sandwich, no apple, no juice. All he could see staring back at his from that blue plastic container were yellow slices of cheddar.
Instead of asking his mates for a half a sandwich or calling home, Paul ate the entire container of cheese. There would have been around a kilo of the stuff. Nothing was moving through that little boy for some time.
Since our days of sandwiches, I haven't quite embraced them in the same way I did at school. Until last weekend, that is. Matt and I were riding into the city but wanted lunch on the way. I decided a picnic was the go and whipped up a quick lunchpack. No vegemite on white here.
Smoked chicken is my new go-to sandwich meat - smokey, but lean and very, very little fuss. The cheddar is crazy, crumbly and sharp. But what tied it all together was the salsa verde. It's acidic, herby and salty all in one go and contrasts so well with the rich cheese and chicken.
We chose to have the sandwich toasted. I wanted the cheese to be all melty so the components married together well. All this was packed in a box with a couple of teeny chocolates and a chinotto. We were the fanciest diners in the park (not that hard in our neck of the woods, mind you).
If you're wondering what happened to our sweet, but accident-prone brother, you'll be happy to know it was his last incident with cheese in our household. The cheese container was clearly labelled and placed in a see-through lunchbox. The cheese? Paul's pocket money was docked until he paid back the debt to this cheese-loving family. He soon learned the value of a lunchbox of cheese.
1 cup parsley
1/3 cup mint
1/3 cup basil
1 slice bread
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 x 12cm slices of baguette
12 thin slices of smoked chicken
50g good-quality cheddar
To make the salsa verde, combine the herbs, garlic, anchovies, bread, cornichons and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is chopped in a fairly chunky way. Add the oil and vinegar and blend until relatively fine, but still has some chunky pieces.
To make the sandwich, preheat the grill (broiler) for 5 minutes. Slice open the baguette and layer with chicken, and top with the cheese. Toast until the grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Remove from the grill and top with a couple of tablespoons of salsa verde.
Wrap up the sandwiches in baking paper and tie with string. These are a few of my favourite things.