Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Clean hands, pure heart?

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.



Rose said...

Isn't it funny how food memories are so strong? I would love to take my kids to South Jersey for three reasons:
1. To see Uncle Carl
2. South Jersey Subs
3. Mr. Softee
Oh, yea! And the onions would be slices so thin as to be transparent strings. I got so spoiled on those subs the few times I was up, I make my own as best I can. With the Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar, Oregano, salt and pepper- sometimes with Basil or garlic salt if we're in the mood. And a deli here actually sells capacola. The kids don't think Subway's sandwiches are as good as Mommy's, but they'd say the same of mine if they were compared with South Jersey's. Yuuuummmmm! Great, it's 3:30 AM and I'm hungry. I'll dream of subs...

Lori said...

First of all, I miss hoagies. I haven't had one in YEARS! And, no, none of the sub chains can make anything close to a Jersey sub. One year when I was in high school, dad and mom went out to do something for Gramps and they brought me one back. It was a day old and had travelled 16 hours to get to me, but boy, was it delicious!! Anyway, one of my favorite memories of Gramps is when we would eat hoagies in that little kitchen of theirs. He's come and check on us 100 times to make sure we weren't touching anything. He would worry and fret and as soon as we were done eating, we'd walk to the bathroom with our hands in the air, faking him out, by pretending to ALMOST touch something. It was hilarious! I kick myself every time when I think of his memorial service in Runnemede and how I never mentioned that story. It just spoke of him so well I thought. This great man of God, who wore suits every day of his life, regardless of whether it was 100 degrees outside or not, was a funny guy who worried about onions in his house. So cute! I've said this a million times, but I miss him so much. He was such a character!

Judi Hahn said...

Yeah, I remember the hands in the air, but I was high enough to reach the kitchen sink, so I had to wash in that sink. Did you ever try to wash your hands without touching the soap or the faucet? Not easy to do. Teeth come in handy for turning on the faucet. The soap -- too bad, so sad -- need to use hands for that. And yeah, he was a funny guy. Miss him so much. Mommy too. Like I wrote a few weeks ago, I still call them on the phone, and realize when I get the "The number you have dialed is no longer in service" blurb that oops, I can't just call them on the phone. Bummer.

Lori said...

I think the thing I'm most sad about when it comes to Grandma is that I didn't get a chance to know her very long and most of the time I knew her, she was sick. That's a part of this blog I love the most. I get to see her through your eyes. I get to see her as a well person and see the kind of mom she was. She was always sweet to us and had a smile on her face whenever we were around. She would even give us hugs while Gramps would just pat us on the arm as we went upstairs for bed. But, she died when I was 13, I think, and I didn't get to have those memories with her like I did Grandpa - of which I have so many. Just so glad I can read about her on here. Read how she was when she was healthy and strong. Ya know what I mean? I miss them both and Aunt Annie too. I look forward to seeing them again some day in heaven and maybe by then he'll even be ok with us having onions. ;-)

OH - and one more thing, the one thing about Grandma that always made me laugh, even when I was little was when Gramps would tease her about something or say something ornery and she'd say "Oh Carl!" and act all offended. Soooo funny!