Monday, May 28, 2012

Illadelph Half-life: The Sandwich from Uncle

I'm a sandwich guy.

Always have been. Given the opportunity, there's not much that I won't put between two pieces of bread.

Add to that the fact that I come from Philly, birthplace of one of the most delicious, most famous sandwiches in the world:

Gimme a sec...

 I meant this:
I think I meant this....

Anyway, I remember eating a lot of sandwiches growing up. 4846 N. Bouvier Street had 3 generations of people living there, and that's a lot of mouths to feed.

Well, one per person, but you get the point.

Bread being relatively cheap and filling, it was likely more conducive to the family budget to make the occasional  sandwich for the 9 or so people that lived there, especially the kids. I mean c'mon, 9 people under 1 roof. Not to mention the various visitors and passers-thru.
Like this. Except, you know, a house...

Now, for purposes of this post, we will consider the only resident adult male and occupier of the basement, my Uncle John L. Welch. Nana's only son. Just don't drink the orange juice in his fridge.

Did I mention how much we liked the basement?

Trust me, this relates to sandwiches.

It was Uncle Johnny who introduced my brother Erik and I to the great and incredible Spaghetti Sandwich. Yes, I said Spaghetti sandwich. And before you get your collective underwear all bunched up about carbs and calories, remember that this was in the 70's. A time when you could smoke in hospitals. When gasoline still had lead in it. When a man could workout by just growing a mustache.
Fitness Instructors circa 1972

Besides, the math is easy enough. Spaghetti stretches a modest amount of meat much further. And it's usually accompanied by some kind of bread. Somehow, somewhen(?),  Johnny decided to put it all together and eliminate the need for utensils. The culinary equivalent of adding a Flux Capacitor to a Delorean.
Pictured: Cooking.

What's not to love? 

Especially to a kid who thought that his uncle and big brother were the coolest, funniest people in the world. 

Outside of Mork & Mindy. (Hey it was the 70's!)
"Cool" is such a ephemeral state.

Though I didn't know it at the time, looking back I see that we didn't have much materially. But what I do remember is that we had each other. Grammy, Nana, Mom, Erik, all the various aunts, uncles and cousins, we all had each other. That's what makes the little things stick out I guess. Spaghetti sandwiches and front-semis on old mattresses at the end of the block; Water ices and soft pretzels; Mr. Softy and riding Big Wheels down cement steps with no helmets because we weren't punks. 

(Fact: Every kid born after 1979 has an extra "soft" gene.) 

Some of them have more than one...
Don't blame me, blame Reagonomics.

Anyway, what I'm saying is that I eat a lot of sandwiches. Because that's where I come from; it's how I grew up. It connects me to my family, to my history and helps keep me grounded. I look back fondly on those Bouvier Street summer days. And on my family, the people who made those days special.

Erik S. and Solomon E. Welch circa 1976

As for Uncle Johnny's Spaghetti sandwich, well I've dressed that up a bit. Made it a little fancier, a little less about the struggle that it came from and a little more about where that struggle can lead. A present to the Man I've become from the child that I was.

A portrait of a life done in pasta and bread. 

If you can dig it.

I'll put the recipe up soon, but until then: 

Wait for it...

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