Such was the choice of sandwiches when I was a very small kid. Liverwurst with onions and mustard on rye bread or sardines with onions and mustard on rye bread. These were the specialties of the place I grew up, which was called “Hell.”
Actually, I did love both when I was very small and didn’t know better. But once I discovered peanut butter and jelly or bologna and cheese, that was that. After Welch’s grape jelly and Kraft Singles passed my lips, I refused to touch any of the scary, stinky Old World foods my mother preferred. (I won’t even get into creamed herring, which seemed an abomination on too many levels to count.)
My mother went from buying whole tubes of liverwurst to just a few slices from the deli counter, to none at all. Once in a while, she’d purchase just enough for her own sandwich, or maybe a tin of sardines to eat with Triscuits and mustard.
I rediscovered the latter combination at the New York restaurant, Prune, where it’s been a kitschy menu staple for years. You know what? Delicious. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton wisely leaves off the raw onion my mom always liked with sardines because she wants her guests to have some semblance of good breath for the remainder of their meals.
Not me. Once every few months now I’ll buy a tin of good-quality sardines (I like the little brisling variety) and eat them with Scandinavian crispbread, sweet onions and mustard. It’s a pretty cheap meal that packs an omega-3 wallop. For me, this meal unlocks a very old taste memory, a feeling of anticipation when that pungent, oily sandwich was placed before me.
As far as liverwurst goes, I like encountering it in a restaurant every now and again, but I’m not inviting it home.
- By John Kessler for the Food & More blog