Is there a more perfect food, in circumstances that require as many fingers free as possible, than the little sandwich? Finger sandwiches, they call them, and not without reason. The mad gesturing small-talker can wave a chicken-salad sandwich-ette with impunity, with bravado, even mucho gusto, confident that no filling will be flung. The nibbling-challenged and those prone to dribbling; the party guest who lives in dread of his crab careening off his canapé; the gastronomically green – for these tender souls, infant-sized sandwiches are sublime.
Little sandwiches, you make life better, one egg salad at a time.
I’ve just returned from Nova Scotia where I joined my family and friends to celebrate my parents’ 60th anniversary. That’s impressive, I know. As impressive, you ask, as the person who thought, “Why not take an asparagus spear and cream cheese and ROLL it in bread?” Yes! As impressive even as the person who said, “I’ll see your asparagus and raise you a gherkin.”
The reception was held in the hall of St. James United Church in Antigonish, where the crack team of United Church Women prepare sandwiches and sweets with management skills we can only dream our public service might possess. Ham salad, egg salad, chicken salad, egg-and-ham-salad-double-deckers-on-white-AND-brown-bread, the aforementioned asparagus rollies, squares and sweets in amounts that must have depleted the supply of coconut and condensed milk in the metropolitan area.
But it’s the sandwiches we’re concerned with here, for I haven’t mentioned the element that makes a little sandwich a little sandwich. You know what it is: no crust. Spurned and cast away, the crust is anathema to the party platter ethos. A little sandwich with a crust is an abomination. A curse on the crust, I say!
The reception was masterminded by my older brother, a designer, and he, my other brother and sister and I set up the hall with draping gauze, faux diamonds, yellow and purple bunting, and centrepieces consisting of yellow roses along with lilacs stolen off a stranger’s property that I probably shouldn’t talk about. The hall looked beautiful for my parents. Prior to the event, the sweets were laid out on one buffet table, covered in glistening wrap. But the other buffet table stood empty. Where were the sandwiches? When were the sandwiches?
When could I begin stuffing my face with sandwiches?
Was there a crisis in the kitchen? A UCW coup, perhaps by a pro-crust faction? Tainted ham?
But how could I have doubted those UCW ladies? The sandwiches debuted as the first guests arrived, and through the afternoon tray after tray appeared, the spent trays with their untouched garnish (cilantro! those classy ladies!) whisked away with military precision.
And the beauty here – on top of the rectangular symmetry of the sandwiches themselves, offset by the occasional pinwheel – was how, between conversations with friends and relatives, I was able to grab a sandwich off a tray and stuff it in my mouth faster than you could say, “If you can’t stand the hairnet, get out of the kitchen.” Sustenance is crucial in conversing with cousins.
The afternoon was a success – the music, the limo drive for my parents (at 83, their first ever!), the weather, the family photos, the decorations and flowers, the not getting arrested for stolen lilacs. And best for last: leftovers.
I don’t know whether it was my brother or Mom who told the ladies how many guests to expect, but he or she was wise, brilliant even, to tell them, “Mobs! We’ll have wall-to-wall well-wishers! Anticipate armies of Antigonish anniversary enthusiasts! Once more unto the bread, dear friends!” For there were containers of everything-salad sandwiches to bring home, and that’s exactly what you want.
After the busy day prior, you want little sandwiches for breakfast, little sandwiches for lunch, little sandwiches for mid-afternoon snack, but not little sandwiches for supper, because let’s not be ridiculous. My sister, daughter and I baggied up some little sandwiches and took them on a hike. They ended up being squooshed little sandwiches but they were crustless and saladed, which is already mostly squooshed, therefore no less delicious, and they made the hike that much better.
Little sandwiches make life that much better.
Could you eat little sandwiches all the time, every day? Of course not. Part of the joy of little sandwiches is the excitement of discovery and exclaiming, “Little sandwiches!” You would eventually get tired of little sandwiches. Thankfully, just before you do get tired of little sandwiches, you run out.
Which we did. Quickly.