classic monte cristo sandwich with red currant relish
“The death of hope is a tricky thing.”
Bernard Ng is an American writer from Pasadena, California. When I was in Vermont, I heard him reading from his beautiful memoir when he suddenly read a line that I’d written. Only I hadn’t written it – he had. We’d written the same line. Pretty much word for word.
It was a line about belonging or rather the lack of belonging – the struggle for belonging.
In the moment that he read that line, I felt as though I had an insight into his soul and vice versa. I concentrated on every sentence he read. His words reverberated inside me. I felt them.
After his reading, I went to tell him about the line we shared. But in front of him, I felt unexpectedly shy. I wasn’t even sure he’d believe in the soul. And why would he think that a line he’d written connected me in any way to him. It seemed kind of goofy to walk up to someone I didn’t know and let him know I’d written the exact same thing and that somehow must have meant we were soul mates. So I told him something inane like, “I really loved your reading – I’ve felt those same things – that struggle for a sense of belonging.” He was incredibly gracious.
After Vermont, Bernard sent me an email out of the blue. We started to exchange our writing. He has a tendency to write quirky, sometimes cryptic stories with sudden, beautiful lines that sear through everything and hold the entire story together. The last story he sent me was about losing hope and then finding it again in the most unexpected places. At least that was my interpretation. “This damn life is do-able,” he wrote.
As tricky as the loss of hope is, I love the idea that we find it again – in the oddest of places. I’ve been peering into the night sky – the river – the crevices between the rocks at the edge of Lake Ontario.
In Eastern Ontario, the first hint of autumn is in the air. I usually dread the end of summer because it means that winter will eventually follow. But this year, I’m looking forward to autumn. I’m feeling hopeful – like this damn life might be do-able after all. I’m looking forward to the return to routines. I’m back in my kitchen after the heat of summer. I’m looking forward to the fall harvest, to apples and pumpkins and squash. I’m starting to think of the change of seasons as a fresh start with all the possibility that comes with that.
A while back, I picked some red currants. It was too hot to do anything with them, so I froze them. Tonight I pulled them out of the freezer and made a relish with them. I’ve had Monte Cristo sandwiches on the brain for the past week and wanted to make something to serve with them. It was a stunningly fantastic flavour combination. If you don’t have red currants – either buy some red currant jelly or perhaps try cranberry relish or lingonberry jam (Ikea sells it).
Red Currant Relish
1 cup red currants, washed and de-stemmed
½ cup sugar
1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Bring the ingredients to the boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until thickened, about 15 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick – remove from the heat and add an extra tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
Classic Monte Cristo Sandwich
(I don’t think you’ll need a recipe but in case you do here it is and this will serve 2)
4 slices sourdough bread
Old Cheddar or Emmental or Gruyère or Swiss or whatever cheese you prefer
Half a dozen slices of black forest ham
1 tbsp water
Butter the bread and make a sandwich with sliced cheddar cheese and ham.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large fry pan.
Beat the eggs into a bowl and whisk with a tablespoon or so of water. Dip the sandwiches into the egg mixture and place the sandwiches into the hot fry pan. Fry over medium heat until the outsides of the sandwich are nicely browned and the cheese is melted.
Serve hot with red currant relish.