A Herkimer Food Memory: Hot Sandwiches Too Good To Be Legal
Phone conversations with Herk folk triggered other food memories from the Mohawk Valley. Coach Paul Wehrum, the only Junior College Lacrosse Coach in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, told me that Herkimer had an Italian immigrant community that dates back to the turn of the century. With them came Italian culinary culture that penetrated the menus’ of eateries in downtown Herk. Some of us student athletes at Herkimer County Community College (HCCC) remembered a place in down town, perhaps a pizza parlor, that sold these awesome hot Italian wedges, I think they call them subs in Herkimer County. The egg and pepper sandwich is the one I can still see and taste the most. The tradition developed as Italian Roman Catholics developed creative ways to eat well during the Lenten season six weeks before Easter. I never had such a sandwich growing up in Westchester even though I grew up around lots of Italian Americans--perhaps the sandwich became a regional tradition over time. This small Herk eatery made the sandwich to order cooking the ingredients in front of you: seasoned eggs and green peppers. The cook behind the counter filled a piece of Italian bread as long as my forearm with the eggs and peppers, It was a simple sandwich but oh so good! The cook wrapped the sandwich in foil with the top portion open and then put it in the oven used to make pizzas. After five minutes in the oven they pulled it from the oven with the top of the bread golden brown and the eggs and pepper steaming hot. Basketball player Ed Anderson of Rochester reminded me that the same restaurant also sold what can best be described as the Herk version of the Philly cheese steak. They made it on the same forearm length piece of Italian bread. They filled the bread with thinly sliced and sautéed pieces of roast beef, onions, and mushrooms. You could get it served with a choice of melted cheese or a red Italian gravy. Those sandwiches tasted so good that they should have been illegal!