Bare branches are scratching against the window outside and I can see a blur of angry snowflakes darting sideways with the wind. There’s only a few slices of yesterday’s bread left and a few wedges of cheese in the fridge. I think I’ll pull out the panini press.
Our panini press lives in one of the kitchen cupboards, wedged between a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa. It’s been there for five years, ever since my nephew Noah came over at the age of ten to make his cousins paninis for lunch. The dream recipe for ten(ish) year-olds is:
Buttered slices of wonder bread (the kind that squish into a satisfying ball between the fingers) and squares of shiny processed cheese. The bread caramelizes when pressed into the hot pan and as the sandwich is sliced, the rubbery cheese pulls apart like hot cat's cradle strings between your fingers. It’s gross and delicious in equal measure.
Noah bought the panini press with his lawn-mowing money. I remember that rainy summer day at the cottage, the kind when we say, “let’s go thrifting.” We arrived at Value Village and hit our favourite sections - my boys went to the T-shirts, moms headed for denim and dishes, nieces to summer dresses and college hoodies, and Noah to electronics. Later as I stood in line at the cash, a set of bakelite butter knives in my hands, I spotted Noah crouched between a garbage can and the exit sign, plugging in a panini press. Confirming that second-hand plug-in kitchenware is operable before leaving the store isn’t something I would have thought of, but Noah could start his parents’ car when he was a toddler and can put Ikea furniture together, blindfolded.
So here I am, benefitting from Noah’s youthful ingenuity, five years later. I slice the end of the bread and cut up what’s left of the cheese I bought yesterday at Luke’s. I’m more careful with small rounds of cheese; I’ve been eating it in tiny triangles, this little blend of cow, ewe, and goat’s milk. Strong but gentle and perfect in a sandwich. I add slivers of old cheddar and a spoonful of beetroot sauerkraut for colour and crunch. I usually spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the outside of a grilled sandwich - it adds a mysterious sweet crust, but this time I chop thyme leaves and a tiny clove of garlic and smear it into soft butter. The thyme leaves imprint on the outside of the grilled bread.
Yesterday, before the snow came down, I sat at my friend’s dining room table and dropped ink onto paper. She is an artist, and together we chatted, several of us around the table, and experimented with her collection of colours. I added water and watched as deep navy bled and feathered into pale turquoise. One friend wondered if her art would be ‘good.’ As the brushes swept across the page, the drops traveled and we discussed life, it was clear that the process was the best part, and trusting that these ingredients will always work.
PS - Noah said we can keep the panini press. He has a surplus at his house.
Lindsay, I'm slowly salting away some of your recipes. Your way of inviting me in as you tell the story is mouthwatering. The Cake That Tastes Like Sunshine has become a family favourite and I suspect the panini will as well. Thank you so much
I always love reading your words, Lindsay. They take me on adventures I would otherwise have missed x