The special ingredient


The days are getting shorter. There’s a cool crispness in the air. Trees around here will soon be splashed with colors marking the change of the seasons. Fall is upon us once again.

October brings with it big orange pumpkins, which The Wife simply loves. Thanksgiving and Christmas have their own family traditions, and fond memories of simpler times.

Yes, this is my favorite time of the year, but not for the reasons you may expect. Fall makes me think of sandwiches. A little odd, I’ll admit. Then again, so am I.
Pull up a chair and tuck in your napkin. You’re gonna love sinking your teeth into this story. The sandwich was named after the Earl of Sandwich — I kid you not.

Seems the good Earl was foraging for food late one night, slapped a hunk of meat between some bread, and the rest is culinary history. Well, if he’s the Earl of Sandwich, then my mom should be dubbed the Queen.

Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, with three brothers and The Sister, money was tight. We rarely went out for dinner, and lunch was almost always eaten at home — unless, of course, it was Game Day at the Varsity. Eating at the Varsity was much more than lunch – it was an event. But I digress. This story’s about lunchtime sandwiches, not the gastrointestinal joy awaiting you at the Varsity.

Mom always cooked lunch, and lunch in the fall consisted of her special sandwiches. First up: grilled cheese and tomato soup. With a cast iron skillet, a stick of butter, and a loaf of Sunbeam white bread, Mom started. She toasted the bread in butter and added real cheese after flipping. There’s nothing better to fight off cold weather than grilled cheese and a bowl of hot tomato soup. Of course then she added the special ingredient.

Next sandwich served: peanut butter and honey with vegetable soup. I never asked, but Mom must’ve gotten her recipe from the lunch ladies at Mt. Olive Elementary.
The smooth peanut butter and honey were spun together in a perfect ratio. Too much honey and the bread is soaked, causing sticky fingers. Too much peanut butter and the whole thing stuck to the roof of your mouth, taking two glasses of milk to wash it all down.

Nope, Mom had gotten peanut butter and honey sandwiches down to an art form. Then she took them to a whole new level. She added sliced bananas – and the special ingredient.

The next sandwich on the roster? Baloney. Not just any baloney, but a fried baloney sandwich with yellow mustard and mayonnaise. Growing up in Georgia, we fried everything: okra, green tomatoes, and even ice cream. Don’t know how they did that last one, but fried ice cream was the best. Too bad they can’t make that into a sandwich. Sure would make for one tasty story.

There was even a sandwich that Down the Street Bully Brad liked more than any my mom made – an onion sandwich. Sliced onion with mustard between bread; now that might’ve explained why he was so mean. At least on windy days, after lunch, we could smell him before he got too close. Now if he’d only battered and fried that onion first, then that would’ve made for one great sandwich.

So what has been the best sandwich I’ve ever had over the last 50 years? Well, you don’t have to look too far in the past for the answer — just to last weekend.
The Wife and I went to the local corner coffee shop for lunch and both ordered the same item: a fried pimento cheese sandwich.

Nope, never had one before, and yes, that’s odd for a Georgia boy. They were handmade from scratch by a mom — Patty Boots. Real pimento, sharp cheddar cheese and a bunch of secret stuff she wouldn’t tell us.

Yes, she too added the special ingredient.

Guess it doesn’t really matter what sandwich you grew up with enjoying or what sandwich you enjoy now. If it’s made by a mom, it’s gonna taste good because it’s made with that one special ingredient only they can add – a mother’s love.

Even if it’s an onion sandwich with mustard. Just ask Bully Brad.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]