Saturday, 26 July 2014

The ham sandwich

It's too hot and sticky this morning for my brain to get properly into gear so I shall tell a simple story of the best ham sandwich I have ever tasted.

I was reminded of that sandwich just the other day.  The OB was feeling unwell - again - and had said that for dinner she wanted just a baked potato.  I decided that I would bake another for myself and serve it with slices of the gammon joint left over from last Sunday and some tinned spaghetti left in the fridge.  Easy enough for my almost non-existent culinary skills and making use of left-overs at the same time.  But the OB changed her mind - she would have a gammon sandwich.


It was about 1950 and I was about 8 or 9 years old when I came down with pleurisy.  Fortunately for my parents, the National Health Service was up and running (it started in about 1947 or 48, I believe) - and possibly fortunately for me as well as I'm sure my parents could not have afforded to cost of my treatment.  I'm told that I was deemed too ill to be moved, even by ambulance, although I should really have been in hospital.  The doctor called almost every day, sometimes more than once a day, and the District Nurse was also a regular visitor.  A portable x-ray machine had to be maneuvered up the stairs and into the bedroom on at least one occasion.

There was, my mother told me, great rejoicing throughout the land (a little hyperbole there perhaps) when I actually expressed a wish to eat.  I asked if I could have a ham sandwich.

Now you need to remember that this was in England back in about 1950.  The Second World War had been over for a few years, but there were still food shortages and even some rationing.  Soap was rationed until 1950, tea until 1952, sugar till 1953 and meat stayed rationed until 1954.  And here was I, asking for a ham sandwich!  Back in those days the only ham we ever saw came in tins - from Canada.  These was none in our house.

There was no point in going to the shops, so my mother went the rounds of the neighbours in the hope that there might be a slice of ham with which to make the sandwich I had asked for, but they had none either.  However, one neighbour had a chicken and she cared enough to give it to my mother.

These days chicken is possibly the cheapest meat in the shops.  It is certainly plentiful.  Back then, nearly 65 years ago, chicken was a luxury, so for one of our neighbours to give my mother a chicken was quite something.

I can still remember the taste of that sandwich, the best ham sandwich I never had.

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