A Tale of Two Sandwiches


This is a tale of two sandwiches.

In high school I had a Spanish teacher who told us a story about her first year spent abroad in Spain. She knew limited Spanish at the time and also made a habit of frequently forgetting to pack her lunch with her for her day at work. When this happened she was forced to walk a block down the street to a local deli where she would always order the exact same, simple sandwich comprised of bread, ham and cheese. It was, after all, the only sandwich she knew how to order in Spanish at the time. This went on for months, she said, and she grew so tired of eating the same sandwich for days on end (until her language prowess grew and she could muster a new order) that she no longer will eat ham and cheese sandwiches to this day. 

This former teacher of mine crossed my mind while we were in Castelrotto. The day we arrived, Anne and I were hungry and in need of some nourishment, but weren’t sure which restaurant looked right for us (and many seemed closed already for the afternoon). After crossing several international borders that day, I’m not sure we remembered which language they even spoke in this area (though I’m sure our Rick Steve’s guide reiterated that a multitude of times on the bus ride in…naps, ya know?). The idea of conversing with a waiter seemed daunting. Reading through, all the way to the bottom, of the eating recommendations in the Rick Steves guide book, we saw a mention for the local co-op market. We asked the owner of our hotel, and she exclaimed with pride, “They have excellent food!”

So, off we went. The market was efficient and no frills, and is obviously where the locals did their grocery shopping (and you could also buy cow bells here as the RS guidebook states). We made our way to the deli where, in some broken German, I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich. And to my delight, it was delicious.

Our sandwiches were prepared with local ingredients by hand by a kind young woman who smiled at each broken German word I uttered. And each day, we revisited the deli, always ordering the same sandwich, just as my former Spanish teacher had. As you might imagine, after the third ham and cheese sandwich, delicious as it was, it was getting old. So, on my way to the co-op for yet another sandwich, and determined to not replicate my Spanish teacher’s fate, one devoid of all ham and cheese sandwiches, I practiced the German words for “salami and pickles.”

The girl at the deli saw me arrive and almost automatically began to prepare the same ham and cheese sandwich I had been ordering. This time, however, I stopped her, and uttered my salami and pickle request. After being kindly corrected on the pronunciation, I received a salami, bread, and cheese sandwich, with pickles.

Success! It’s the little things in life.