In the nearly 5 years since my father died I have found certain things that really remind me of him. I have many small reminders in my daily life, such as the watch my mother gave him on their wedding day or his cufflinks and ties. Not to mention the fact that at least two or three days a week I literally walk in his shoes. The man knew how to dress, and I try to keep that legacy alive. He also knew how to cook, and it's through his gastronomic creations that I also try to remember him.
So let me take a moment to introduce you to one of his favorites that my family just calls "the sub." There are many different types of heros, grinders, subs and sandwiches and my old man loved them all, but this one was uniquely Dad. The Sub wasn't only about eating it, but the experience of making it, and the style and flair needed to consume it appropriately. It was there throughout my life, usually on weekends. It was always eaten off metal army issue plates passed down from my maternal Grandfather. To this day, I find them oddly comforting, and I try and have them a few times a year.
As I said, it was never just about eating the Sub. Sometimes we were allowed to go to the store with him to lay in the supplies. Two pounds of good provolone cheese, a pound and a half of Genoa salami, tomatoes, a few loaves of crusty French bread and most importantly a few jars peppers both roasted peppers and sandwich peppers which are not hot. Of course, since we were at the grocery store we probably also picked about 23 other things that we didn't intend on getting, since this was his modus operandi.
Once we were home he would set to work cutting the tomatoes and putting them in a big metal bowl with the peppers and a liberal amount of olive oil and vinegar. The man loved metal bowls, and always found a way to use them in food prep. While doing this he would often take a piece of provolone and salami and roll them up together making a tiny appetizer which he would dunk in the bowl, covering it in the combined juice. After the first bite he would say "Mhhh, that's good" and go back to work with a simile on his face. If he wasn't smiling while he was prepping our lunch, he was probably singing along to what ever song was on the tiny radio propped against the wall, on top of the radiator. He was a happy cook, but a lacking singer.
The next step would be to cut the bread, being sure to leave a hinge on the bottom, and pull a bit of it out to allow for maximum space to accommodate the tomato and pepper mix. Before assembly could begin, the bread needed to be dressed with the liquid from the bowl, soaking it. Next he would lay the provolone on each side of the bread, approximately three per side for a 6 inch sub. On top of that would go 6 slices of salami which finished off the hardware. Bread, meat, cheese. Now came the software, tomatoes peppers and more of the combined juice. A work of culinary art, but like most art, what made it great wasn't just the what, but also the where and the how.
He would slop your sub on one of Pop's old metal plates and hand it across the counter to you with a few paper towels and send you on your merry way. Then it was time to eat the sub, the act of which being almost as important to me now as the taste. As you held the sub up more of those juices dripped out of the bottom, and pooled in the small dents in Pop's old plates. After each bite we would sop up the pools with the business end of the sub, thus ensuring none of it went to waist.
It's all gold to me, just as much now as it was then. Looked at through the lenses of time these Saturdays and Sundays serve as constant reminders of the little things that we all loved about the man who was also responsible for many big things. Anyone that knew my old man, knew that he really took the time to appreciate the little things, a lesson that I believe he taught by example. So today as I made my sub, stopping to have a salami and cheese roll along the way, I though of my Dad. As I ate the sub I thought of days spent with my family back in Jersey, and I smiled thinking about the little things.