Nothing like a calamari sandwich to jog the memory

I couldn’t tell you what shirt I wore two days ago and I can’t remember the title of the book I’m reading at the moment, but today, a sandwich I had for lunch triggered a happy memory of something I ate FIFTEEN whole years ago.

Several lifetimes ago (or so it feels like), when I was in college and studying abroad, I went to Spain for spring break, and during a short stay in Madrid, I met up with an old friend from home who lived there at the time. I don’t remember much about that whirlwind trip or my brief visit to the Spanish capital— many a braincell have been killed since then and especially back then— but I do remember a few things.

The Golden Rings from Foxface in the East Village

Art history nerds still to this day, we went to The Prado and took one of only two photos from that day in front of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. (How else do you commemorate such an occasion than with an awkward photo in front of a trippy, surrealist painting from the northern renaissance?) After, we went to what I vaguely remember was a bar (Or maybe a restaurant? Again, it’s all very fuzzy, but I feel like we ate standing up at a counter, and there were old men sitting nearby.) and he ordered us two bocadillos de calamares, or the local specialty of calamari sandwiches.

It was a simple thing: a sandwich roll sliced open, smeared in aioli and stuffed with fried calamari. I don’t remember how much they cost but I remember they were pretty cheap (and in line with my college-student-abroad budget) and also, that it was one of the best things I’d ever eaten in my whole life. Hence the memory was tucked away into the things-that-must-never-be-forgotten part of my brain and still lives on today.

It was probably peeking out from the recesses of my mind when I saw the Golden Rings sandwich listed on the menu at Foxface but it wasn’t until I bit into the warm, soft bread filled with hot, fried calamari, smoked paprika sauce and lemon aioli, that I was truly transported to that day and that sandwich all those years ago. While I sadly wasn’t on vacation and instead was sitting at my desk in a windowless part of the office, sweating my brains out after taking the train down to the East Village and power-walking down St Mark’s on a 90 degree August day, I still thoroughly enjoyed my lunch. The sandwich itself was good, toasty bread and not-too-chewy calamari with a subtly spicy, bright zing from the sauces, but I’m pretty sure it was that memory of a sandwich 15 years ago that made it really great.

Either way, as is usually the case these days when I have to be in the office, the Golden Rings from Foxface was the highlight of my day. Maybe fifteen years from now (when I’m hopefully rich and retired… don’t ask me how I’m gonna make that happen), I’ll look back on today and not remember much about it other than how much I really love fried calamari sandwiches.

The egg sandwich that saved the day

All the color I needed on an otherwise grey ass day.

“This just isn’t gonna happen for me today,” I thought, as I laid on my back on the floor, still in my pajamas, on the rug in my bedroom. I was talking about working out, which I normally do before work every morning, but really, it turned out to be applicable to so much more.

It was snowing when I woke up, and while I don’t usually mind the snow, today it only added to my general feeling of malaise. When my needy desire for affection got the best of me and I tried to scoop up my cat from the window where she was peacefully minding her business, watching the snow, she taught me another lesson in boundaries and freaked out, flailed, and knocked over one of my plants, breaking the brontosaurus planter it was in and sending dirt and broken succulent bits all over the floor.

“Ok, fine then, Universe. I’ll just shower.”

Under the scalding hot water I hoped would wash away my listlessness, I planned for the workday ahead. I would turn the lights up, diffuse energizing essential oils, play upbeat music, and not wait till late afternoon to make some tea. I was going to be alert, focused and productive, goddammit.

Then the power went out.

But not completely, because that would’ve been too easy, and would’ve meant calling out of work and reading in bed all day, like I wanted to do. Cruelly, one outlet worked in my room, the one near my dresser, where I put my laptop when I need it to be a makeshift standing desk. Nothing in the kitchen turned on. Randomly, the lights in the bathroom also worked.

Motivation was at an all-time low, even by pandemic standards, and by the time it was finally lunchtime, what felt like 12 hours after I’d started work, I was hangry enough to scream if I got just one more email. I put all my layers on, slipped on the snow boots that’ve gotten more use this winter than in the past three years, and trudged through the still-falling snow to pick up lunch at reliable, consistently delicious Golda, a couple of blocks away from my apartment.

There, in addition to a hot, creamy matcha latte with oat milk, I ordered the classic egg sandwich with added avocado and brought it back home, where I ate in my room, sitting by the window where my cat had so unceremoniously reminded me that she will at best tolerate me, not love me. That egg sandwich though, which I’d had before, made everything better. The giant onion poppy seed challah bread felt like a carby cloud in my hands and the whole thing oozed with scrambled eggs, melted cheese, avocado, and a tangy red pepper sauce.

Anyone that doesn’t believe in the transcendent power of food is an asshole, because let me tell you, that big, beautiful scrambled egg sandwich saved my whole day. It was hopeful. It was encouraging. It was so very freakin’ good. and absolutely delicious. It basically told me, “Don’t worry, you’re halfway there. The lights will come back soon, you’ll be able to make dinner tonight, and even if your cat never shows you she loves you, she probably does. Maybe.” That egg sandwich was the hug that I’ve been needing all day, all week, all miserable quarantine.