Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Life in Sandwiches

We were a Miracle Whip-Town House home. We never, ever, veered toward Ritz or Hellmans, even when there was a sale on them at Kinney's Market. Even with a coupon. Miracle Whip flavored nearly every sandwich I ate growing up and I ate a lot of them.

Lunch always centered on the sandwich. I brown-bagged it every single day until high school, when occasionally we escaped from the gloom of our church basement lunchroom to the bright lights of Burger King. There were kids who went home for lunch, but I lived too far away. Instead, I'd unpack my folded-over baggies and see what the day held. There was always a fruit tucked in there. If I could talk Mom into it, there might be a Hunt's snack pack pudding. If there happened to be cookies in the house, there would be 2; only 2. No chips. I'd pull out the sandwich last. Would it be tuna salad? Peanut butter and mystery jam? Did she give me Jenny's peanut butter and mustard (gag) by mistake? No pickle loaf for us. Sometimes it might be baloney; sometimes egg salad. Ham salad made at home with the manual grinder that attached to the countertop? Braunschweiger? Mmmmm. Braunschweiger and Miracle Whip on white bread! A personal favorite of mine.

What is Braunschweiger, you ask? (Note: please pronounce it as I do, in the same German accent used by the  Gestapo-loving Austrian officials in The Sound of Music: "Braun-ShVIE-Gah"; it tastes better that way.) Braunschweiger is a soft liver sausage, with a dense and earthy taste. It is usually sold in chunks, in yellow casing, approximately the diameter of a soda can. I don't think I have eaten it since I graduated from high school. Out of curiosity, I looked for it at the grocery store last week, just to see if it was still available and it was! Not that I'd care to ingest any nowadays; now that I know what it is made of and what it would do to my cholesterol level.

None of my friends brought Braunschweiger; in fact, they thought it was pretty gross. They got things like ham sandwiches and Little Debbie's and bags of chips or Fritos. Usually both. Not us; not in my family. We weren't allowed much in the way of what was then known as "junk."

I ponder these things as I pack lunches for my girls. Although their schools offer hot lunch (mine didn't; too small), they prefer to pack. It's harder now to pack lunches, now that we know about trans-fats and preservatives and Red Dye #40. We have to pull out our Venn Diagrams to find the overlap among competing factors: Locally grown? Non-GMO? Nothing artificial? Healthy? No high fructose corn syrup? Whole grain? Low sugar? Oh, yeah, will they actually eat it?

And the bar keeps rising. We can't just pack it in throwaway plastic bags; it has to be sustainable: reusable containers and cloth napkins! Oh, and it should be visually appealing - like the bento-box lunches on Pinterest with the hard boiled eggs molded into the shape of a fish or a heart. Because, you know, that's all I do all day. Plan for tomorrow's school lunches. Honestly. 

These poor kids only have about 15 minutes to eat. I should just throw it all in a blender and send it in a thermos with a straw! Stainless steel, of course. With a cooler pack. Always a cooler pack. The school actually sent home guidelines for healthy lunches and REQUIRES cooler packs. My Braunschweiger sandwiches survived half a day in a locker in nothing more than a baggie, so why are cooler packs so important nowadays? Maybe it's because we don't use as much Miracle Whip.


  1. Yea, I feel certain a thin encasing layer of Miracle Whip could preserve even a nectarine for several months before the first hint of spoilage set in.

    Also complicating our school lunch issues, besides trying to get something healthy in the bag (and something, as you note, that can be eaten in about 8 minutes), is trying to vary the options. Haakon was sooo crabby yesterday morning because he's SO TIRED OF PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY. It took all our restraint not to holler at him that it's his own finicky nature that limits possibility. Braunschweiger would serve him right.

    But then he'd be more ravenous than usual when he got off the bus, and that's a family-meltdown kind of hunger there...all of which explains why I went and bought summer sausage and ham steaks at the store yesterday.

    In sum: I do believe your post here has hit a chord!

  2. -I'm Mayo. He's Miracle Whip. I don't know how our marriage has survived.

    -Your high school sandwich sounds more gross than your sister's!

    -Our schools don't even let us pack PB & J due to food allergies.

    -I miss my Hollie Hobby lunchbox, and wish I could have had a cooler pack for the milk back then!

  3. Hope you at least had a cool lunch box!?

  4. Braunschweiger on toast with jam. Jelly, if you must; strawberry freezer jam is THE way to go. It's delicious and sat in a truck, without freezer packs, for half the day. I not only survived, but the sandwich was beyond wonderful. The jam would soak into not only the toast, but the meat(?) as well.
    I grew up watching my grandfather eat this combo for breakfast. I didn't think there was anything odd back then. However, as a late thirty-something, I realized that I've only met a small hand full of people who have unwrinkled their noses long enough to enjoy it.