This is not panini!

21 May

Originally written: January 2007


I’m experiencing a holiday withdrawal. All the excitement and cheer are a part of the past—the past being a week ago.  Now I’m back in London.  Away from home.   Away from family and friends.  Away from Ryan.  Clearly I’m suffering more from homesickness than any other malady, holiday-related or not.

I want to go home. 

I know I’m being insufferable but the weather is bleak, and it is cold and damp, I don’t believe I’ll be bouncing around anytime soon, not unless I’m drugged or intoxicated.  A slim possibility for either one to happen.

To cheer me up, Hammad, my ever so inspirational Pakistani friend, took me out for panini.  According to him, an Italian sandwich is a cure-all.  His days in Oxford were brightened by a Panini shop nearby the campus so it was only his right to suppose that perhaps a stuffed panino is an uplifting food.  That may be true for some but noodle dishes have always been my pick-me-up food.  Last thing I want is be a downer so I went along.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that a ramen noodle soup would hit the spot for me.  In any case, I wasn’t feeling assertive so off I went with him to a sandwich shop in Euston Station. 

It was around lunchtime at a food court in a station.  The place was packed.  Luckily we spotted a table with patrons preparing to leave so with haste we rushed on to claim the table.  I stayed behind while he ordered the sandwiches.  Before we left to grab grub, I insisted that I didn’t have any appetite whereas he insisted I had to eat.  It was an impasse until my treacherous stomach decided to grumble.  Being in a food court may be uninspiring, particularly since I can be a food snob, but I was quite famished. 

Hammad returned with a tray of bottled organic juices, a tomato-and-mozarella panino for me and a meat panino for him.  I thanked him for the generous deed of cheering me up.  Then I took a small bite of the unexciting looking sandwich.

I could hardly swallow the bite I took.  The sandwich was nothing but a poor imitation with ingredients that by themselves I wouldn’t eat.  Tomatoes are supposed to be juicy with a hint of sweetness, but the sliced tomatoes in my sandwich were, er, devoid of juiciness.  Mozarella is supposed to be firm, salty and slightly tangy, but the mozzarella slices in my sandwich were too rubbery in texture and tasteless.  As for the bread, which is supposed to be the crowning glory, is nothing but insipid day-old roll.

Hammad is a fantastic friend and if I was given an impossible mission he would definitely be a part of my crew, and this isn’t about him.  It’s about the faux panini.  To give him credit, he did voice his disappointment that it’s not the kind of panini from his Oxford days.  It also doesn’t bear mentioning that the sandwiches weren’t exactly made by food artisans. 

At least the bottled orange juice was good.  Not freshly made but it was nice and chilled.

When we got back to the hall, I made myself ramen