Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You Butter My Bread, Baby

During my early-20s I had the great fortune of knowing a lovely elderly couple who, at first glance seemed to be simply existing in their twilight years. After getting to know them, however, I saw that they had achieved the dream: a peaceful, easy coexistence with someone you love and trust, who knows you better than anyone else and will be there through thick or thin.

I remember sitting at their kitchen table in Hendersonville, Pennsylvania as the lady of the house rambled around with difficulty, pulling together a snack for her husband and guests. She rebuffed all offers of help, commanding me to simply sit and be her company. It was the middle of the afternoon--too late for lunch and too early for supper, but she declared that we all needed a nibble.

She decided on cucumber sandwiches and iced tea. This kind woman--grandmother and great-grandmother to dozens by that time--set to work peeling and slicing her cucumber, deftly working that knife to achieve paper-thin slices. When she got to the bread, however, her chatter turned to more serious things.

"Some people," she said, "just slap the butter on the bread. That's not how you do it. If you really love someone you spread the butter carefully--don't tear the bread--all the way to the edges."

And spread she did. She buttered those slices of white sandwich bread slowly and with care, ensuring even coverage over the entire slice. She assembled the sandwiches one at a time, removed their crusts and cut them into triangles.

By that time she was ready for me to help, so together we piled the sandwiches on a plate, poured iced tea and carried them to the parlor. Her husband smiled, delighted when she returned, bringing his portion to him where he sat.

Now that's love.

Recently I found myself reading about cucumber sandwiches and acquired a hankering for them, myself. With a bumper crop of cukes calling me from the crisper, I decided to introduce this special treat to Mr.W.

When I began to spread softened, unsalted butter on slices of whole wheat sandwich bread, I remembered that couple from so many years ago, now long dead. I recalled the lady's face, her kind manner, and her words, and I glanced at that ugly teddy bear cookie jar she had given me back then. I've never been able to bring myself to part with it.

So I slowed down. I buttered the bread carefully, evenly, and all the way to the edges. I carefully applied the cucumbers in a single layer, careful not to overlap them. I sliced off the crusts and cut them into triangles, just like she taught me.

Mr.W was delighted when I brought him some.


SarahKate said...

Amanda! I just posted about a version of cucumber sandwiches as well! Must be the weather... this is perfect cucumber sandwich weather! I hope you're well.

Amanda said...

SK--I just went over to check. Yours sound lovely!

It's actually starting to get chilly here in central NY state, though I could eat a cucumber sammy any time of year.

Grace said...

to me, the cuke sandwich is the quintessential fancy lady lunch cuisine. i imagine finely dressed women in hats sitting around a table, delicately eating them and sipping tea. :)

Amanda said...

Grace--you're so right! Cucumber sammies are definitely teatime fare.

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