My father, as I've mentioned before, had several idiosyncrasies. Mention was made of another one at THE WEDDING.
My father could not tolerate onions -- the smell, the taste, eating them -- he would get sick if he ate them, and the smell, I guess nauseated him, although he never really said that was the case.
Well, all my father's children loved hoagies. (a.k.a. subs) A Philadelphia area hoagie is completely different from any hoagie in any other part of the country. I know, because I've tried to get Jersey Mikes and/or Subway to make one that duplicates the taste of the hoagies we were able to get when I was growing up, and after I grew up and left Runnemede, the ones I purchased each time I returned home, but those two places have never come up to the standards of a Runemede hoagie.
My father had to know what was coming when I returned home each year, but probably prayed that this time things would be different, because the first thing I would do when I got home was run down to Vince's and get myself and Alan a hoagie. As my children got older, the girls, at least, enjoyed this South Jersey treat. I don't think my son every enjoyed them.
Ever since I was a teenager, I would spend some of my allowance money on a half a hoagie made by Vince (I've talked about that hoagie shop before). I would come home, and before I even got through the back door, dad would be standing there telling me to wash my hands. What? I hadn't even touched anything, yet.
You see, a good hoagie starts with a special kind of Italian roll -- it's like a baguette, but it is not as hard crusted as a baguette, but not as flimsy at the rolls you get at Subway or Jersey Mikes. If you haven't had a hoagie roll, correctly made by a Philadelphia artisan, there's just no way to tell you what they are truly like.
Anyway, you start with the bun, then you put on it provolone cheese, Genoa salami, prosciutto, cappacola, boiled ham, and probably another kind of salami. Then you add shredded lettuce, not as much as they smother your sub/hoagie with at Subway, tomatoes, ONIONS, and hoagie spread. Hoagie spread is a mixture of hot and sweet peppers pickled in vinegar. Delish! And then you sprinkle lightly the whole thing with a mixture of spices -- there's the rub (pun intended) -- no place has the right mixture of spices except the little Italian delis all over South Jersey and the Philadelphia area.
After purchasing my hoagie, I would bring it home, and enjoy it at the kitchen table. The whole time I'm enjoying this delicacy (because it truly is), my father would be telling me to wash my hands, wash the table, wash the floor, wash my face, wash my hair; and don't touch anything until you've washed your hands.
Did all that nagging bother me when I had a delicious hoagie in my hand? Not at all, but we were remembering that dad had said the same thing to my brother whenever he came back to Runnemede and got a hoagie. So, I imagine it was the same with all the children, because growing up in South Jersey/Philadelphia, not a week went by after I became a teenager, that we didn't enjoy a hoagie at least once. Even mom got in on the act and would buy a whole hoagie -- a rather long version of the regular sized hoagie -- and bring it home, and then divide it up between herself and her four children, with the voice of my father nagging in the background:
Rose, make sure you wash your hands and make sure all the children wash their hands. Judith, be sure to wash your hands. Deborah, wash your hands. Mark, don't touch anything until you wash your hands. Carl, be sure to wash you hands.
So do clean hands mean a pure heart? I don't know, all I know is it means my father would be pleased he wasn't smelling onions any more.