The basic cheese sandwich

I was going to do a riff on parsley and why it’s a bit crap at the moment. Should probably start growing it myself in pots on my balcony, but until then I have to buy it, and the continental parsley I’ve had recently has leaves that are coarse to the point of toughness and is pretty tasteless. I’ve moved to the curly variety to see if that’s any better. But more research is needed … so I’ve gone to another current preoccupation: the basic cheese sandwich.

I work mostly from home and a cheese sandwich is my go-to lunch. Sometimes toasted with mushrooms or fried onions; sometimes with added tomato; sometimes grilled over sauerkraut and mustard—a quick, vegetarian Reuben. Often plain. The cheese varies, as does the type of bread, but one thing never varies—I don’t eat lunch at my desk. Drinks, yes—tea, coffee, water, occasionally a glass of wine at the end of the working day or over a Zoom chat with friends. But no food.

The basic cheese sandwich. It’s one the the ways I evaluate a hotel’s service: will they make me a plain cheese sandwich? Not a club sandwich, not one of those huge multi-ingredient things on the menu. Just bread—white, rye or wholemeal—butter and cheese. Sometimes I get lucky, but more often than not, I’m told that a plain cheese sandwich is not an option.

Years ago, carrying out film research in India. Long, dusty, slow-moving car trips were common, and we’d ask the hotel where we were staying to provide bananas and plain cheese sandwiches for the journey. And they did, perfect squares—occasionally triangles—wrapped in greaseproof paper and secured with string. We’d share them with the driver and fixer while we sat in traffic jams and discussed cricket or international politics. Now, whenever a hotel tells me that a simple cheese sandwich is not something their kitchen can provide, I remember those road trip sandwiches and the easy can-do-ness of that Indian hotel.