Monday, April 11, 2011

Peppers and eggs


I grew up behind the counter of my family's fountain service store. We made sodas by mixing together flavored syrup and seltzer water, malteds with hard ice cream and real malt, sundaes, frappes and, of course, egg creams. (A separate item on the iconic Brooklyn beverage is in the planning stage. First, and in order to prepare a proper egg cream, I must get to my friend Joe's house in the Hudson Valley, he being the keeper of a steady supply of real glass seltzer bottles and authentic U-bet chocolate syrup. But I digress.)

The store is where our neighbors (we lived right upstairs) sat in chrome stools while they talked and read newspapers and laughed and listened to the radio and, yes, fought hard with one another as neighbors will sometimes do. You did not so much spend your money when sitting at counters like this one; you spent your time, your life really. There are men for whom I poured coffee and served crumb buns and unwrapped fat cigars that were like uncles to me; the women who came by the store to collect these men — their men — were like aunts.

In the back of the store was a small apartment where my Uncle Joe lived. But once he got his own place, a block and a half away, my mother, after mourning the "loss" of her elder brother, reluctantly started using the kitchen to make sandwiches at lunchtime. This development was met with some enthusiasm in our tightly knit community, as my mother's cooking skills were both known to and appreciated by many.

Hers was a limited menu. There were meatballs (of course) and breaded and fried veal cutlets (served straight up or parmigiana); there was a pepper steak (also available with veal, my preference), an eggplant parm, and a sweet Italian sausage hero. People liked my mother's sandwiches. Lunchtime at the store just could not possibly have been any busier.

You might imagine that the meatball, or perhaps the sausage, would be the most popular in this small group of sandwiches. They were not. To those in our corner of Kings County, not even a perfectly prepared meatball, which my mother's most certainly was (just ask my cousin Big John, he'll tell you), could compete with the most iconic Italian-American sandwich of all: Peppers and eggs.

A simpler sandwich to prepare you will not find. Fry slices of peppers in some olive oil, toss in a couple eggs after the peppers have softened, a little salt and pepper, then mix it all up and into your bread of preference it goes. (You must agree that the demi baguette is the perfect sandwich bread, it having not one but two crunchy ends to enjoy.)


See? So simple that it is hardly worth even writing about.

Apologies. I will attempt something more challenging the next time. Maybe.

17 comments:

Joe said...

I remember that pepper-and-egg sandwiches were the official sandwich of the beach. Whenever we trekked to Coney Island or Brighton Beach as kids (trek being an overstatement, since we were only about a mile away), all the families on the block made pepper-and-egg sandwiches for lunch. Dunno why. But I DO remember the only time I've eaten pepper-and-egg sandwiches in my entire life, they came with a side of sand...

mr. pineapple man said...

i was wondering what the ingredients would come up to- looks AWESOME!

Claudia said...

Now you've done it. The week won't end before I make those pepper and egg sandwiches and partake. Egg creams.... the kids today do not know what they're missing.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Love this! I make pepper and egg sandwiches all the time,just love that flavor, when summer comes I'm happy with that for dinner along side a tomato, cucumber and onion salad it's the best dinner, but I need some hot giardiniera on top of that sandwich!

Thomas Henry Strenk said...

In my opinion, nothing beats Bocadillo de Tortilla Espanola, that simple yet savory Spanish sandwich, a potato-onion omelet in a crusty roll.

Gin said...

Great story! Haven't had a pepper and egg sandwich since I stopped cooking. Always loved them.

Nutritious Food said...

To everybody but THS: Glad you like.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Oh yea, I grew up eating these and love them still.

Jeannie said...

Simple food is sometimes the best:) I like this seeing it's so simple to put together:D

jerseypaulie said...

Whenever I hear pepper & egg sandwich, I think of my Aunt Mary. She was actually my grandmother's sister, but when Grandma died when I was a kid, she took over as my grandmother. She was an amazing cook and was happiest feeding the family. During my teenage years she would stay at my house in Jersey when my parents traveled. I typically gained 5 to 10 lb.s during her visit. My mother would stock the freezer and pantry with all the things needed. If I didn't want seconds, she knew something was wrong. One Saturday for lunch she made pepper & egg sandwiches. I never liked cooked peppers, but could never hurt her feelings in any way. I forced down the sandwich, but could not have seconds. That was 40 years ago, and it was the last P & E sandwich I ever had.
Aunt Mary lived alone in her Washington Heights tenement apartment until she had to go to a nursing home in her eighties. She lived there for over 60 years, and even though she was the only non-hispanic person left on the block, she refused to leave. This was a very tough neighborhood in the 1970's, but the people in her building loved her, and kept an eye on her. One day walking home from Mass, some creep grabbed her pocketbook and ran. Aunt Mary could only run a block or so in her old-lady black shoes, and didn't catch him. He certainly would have regretted it if she did. She probably had a couple of bucks in the bag, but that wasn't the point.
On another note: my mom grew up in Brooklyn, and when she got mariied and my dad brought her out to Jersey, there was a stipulation. She found a company that would home-deliver wooden cases of heavy glass seltzer bottles and U-Bet chocolate syrup to Jersey. There was no way her kids weren't going have egg creams.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Never apologize for simplicity and a wonderful trip down memory lane. These simple graces are the true *spices* of life. :)

Your posts always make me happy.

Nutritious Food said...

CAB: Nice of you to say. Welcome, and grazie mille!

Fred said...

Variations on a theme: Potatoes and eggs were the forerunner of today's trendy frittatas. And then there was "gagootz" and eggs for those lucky enough to know someone with a green thumb and a willingness to share their harvest. Awright; if you insist; cucuzza.

Carol A. Fritz said...

You're making me hungry and nostalgic. Brooklyn was the best place to grow up! Now if I could just get my hands on the recipe for Ebinger's mocha buttercream cake...

Nutritious Food said...

Fred: A green thumb you say? Try this on for size. http://bit.ly/cLQpyJ

Carol: Ditto on the Bklyn love.

Anonymous said...

And yet another one that brings me back! I still enjoy this and potatoes and eggs! Did you ever try chicken gizzards, hearts & livers sauted with onions and then scramble them with eggs? I have no idea how to write it in Italian but it is phoenetically "dendrachule e ova" at least that is how our family pronounced it. Keep em coming!

Denise

Nutritious Food said...

Don't know it, but it sounds good.

 
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