July 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
When I started this blog it was all about creating new memories of warmth and familial bonds. Many of my recipes take time to prepare – time to infuse your passion into each herb you chop, each concoction of ingredients you stir, each pot of simmering elixir wafting through your home. Today I want to step back in time when something simple and obvious was exciting and new…
I won’t say what year it was but I was 14. I was thinking of becoming a nurse so I decided to volunteer at the local town hospital to see what it might be like. To give you some perspective of time let’s just say I was called a candy striper. Regular duties would include helping at the front desk, sorting internal mail, delivering flowers to patients, and sometimes helping out in the cafe (not the large cafeteria but the little cafe that patient visitors would often go to if they need a cup of coffee or a small bite and some quiet time).
I always felt at home in a kitchen so I loved helping out in the cafe. The customers in the cafe were people who were visiting their sick loved ones. Usually tired and emotionally drained. Some had been sleeping in a chair all night. They wanted a quiet place to refresh themselves. That’s where volunteers like me stepped in. We weren’t there for the tips. We served them coffee and gave them a smile.
The cafe served simple fare – coffee & tea, donuts, eggs & bacon, and sandwiches. When I say sandwiches I don’t mean what you would find now-a-days like grilled panini’s, banh mi sandwich, or even a foot-long hero. They served ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, egg salad, and something I had never heard of…ham salad.
I know, you’re thinking “Seriously? This blog is actually about ham salad?” Well, yes but it’s also so much more. This simple concoction of chopped ham and pickles was something I never had in my then, 14 long years of life! It was new and exciting. Sure, I had plain ham before but not this combination of sweet and salty and sour and soft and crunchy all at the same time goodness!
To this day, every time I have leftover baked ham I have to make ham salad. Maybe it’s the taste, maybe it’s the memories. Maybe it’s because it brings me back to a time when the simple act of pouring someone a cup of hot coffee and handing them a sandwich with a smile could make a difference.
The head chef in the cafe I’m sure thought it was quite hysterical that this little girl was so fascinated with how to make ham salad. If I recall correctly his recipe was – chopped ham, relish, and mayonnaise. Over the years I’ve improvised. I vary between chopped Dill or Bread and Butter pickles. I sometimes add fresh herbs. I’ve tried different types of mustard to give it a little spicy kick. The one thing I always do…I never measure my ingredients. So here is a basic recipe that can be improvised to your personal taste.
Pickles, chopped (Dill or Bread and Butter is recommended)
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
Sprinkle of dried Dill
Ground Black Pepper
Chop pickles and ham to 1/8-inch pieces.
Place all ingredients in a bowl and combine well.
My first ham salad sandwich was made with cloud soft Wonder Bread. As my recipe evolved so have the many ways I consume this simple salad. As photographed above, any type of bread works but it’s not only for sandwiches now…
Ham Salad on Salad.
Ham Salad in Cucumber Cups.
Ham Salad in Lettuce Wraps.
Ham Salad in Tomato Cups.
Always served (and eaten) with a smile.