Can a sandwich mend a broken heart?


Samantha Memi

In a Soho bistro, a young couple sit in the wan London sun. He is drinking a cappuccino and looking forlorn. She is eating a cheese and tomato sandwich and falling in love with the thinly sliced tomato as it caresses her tongue. She doesn’t know the seductive tomato is a cuore di bue grown in Tuscany by Guiseppe Mazzoni, whose family have been tomato growers for generations. One day, out in the fields, Guiseppe was discussing the future of the farm with his dissenting wife, —No no no Natalia, you have to understand, my Papa he grow tomatoes, my grandpapa he grow tomatoes too.


His wife, the most beautiful woman in the village, answered coyly, —Oh Guiseppe, sometimes I think you love your tomatoes more than me.


—Natalia, how can you think such a thing. Come with me.


He took his wife by the hand and led her through the field of ripening tomatoes, past the lines of Romanian workers, into the packing shed where the fresh sun-ripened tomatoes were placed lovingly in trays awaiting dispatch to all parts of Europe. He took the reddest, ripest, most luscious tomato and held it up for her to see. Sunlight, streaking into the building, reflected off the tomato and glinted rosily in Natalia's eyes.


—You see this tomato, he says. —It is the most beautiful fruit in all the world, but no, nothing is more beautiful than you, my beloved.


He carefully replaced the tomato, which was soon on its way to England and would eventually find itself sliced, sandwiched, and chewed lovingly by the girl sitting in a cafe opposite her boyfriend.


Natalia, who knew Guiseppe was having an affair with one of the Romanian packers, said, —We need to diversify. Peppers will earn more money than tomatoes.


—Never, said Guiseppe. —I will never sink family name to level of pepper grower. Tomatoes, only tomatoes. We grow finest in all world.


And the girl, Samantha, sitting in the anaemic light, taking another bite from her sandwich, and savouring the warmth of the Italian sun would certainly agree.


—Mm, this tomato is divine.


Her boyfriend, Nico, watches steam drift from his cappuccino and disburse in the polluted London air.


—I'm sorry, he says. —I hope you understand.


—Understand? she replies.


—It’s just we’re not compatible.


—Why do you say that?


—We're always arguing.


—No we’re not.


—We’re arguing now.


—No we’re not.


She sips her coffee, too bitter. She takes another bite from her sandwich and the semi-ripe manchego tingles her taste buds and awakens a distant memory of a morning breeze in Asturius and the sheep she had seen staring at her across a river. Sheep which, unknown to her, were owned by Felipe de la Frontera, who produced the finest organic manchego in all Spain. Sheep which were, at that moment, being driven into the milking shed by workers and Mari-Carmen, Felipe’s wife, who was out, trying to find the girl who was supposedly carrying her husband's child. Once the sheep were in the milking shed, her husband came over, —Mari, what are you doing out in the fields? That's not like you.


—I thought some fresh air and physical work would help lift me from my depression.


She noticed a girl coming out of Felipe’s office, young, pretty, maybe pregnant.


—Taste this, said Felipe, holding a slice of manchego with chervil and sage. —If this doesn't end your sadness, nothing will.


Felipe’s fingers slipped the slice of manchego between Mari-Carmen’s lips, and as the cheese melted on her tongue she felt her sadness lift. —Mm, this is delicious.


An opinion shared by Samantha when the manchego, flirting with her taste buds, brings a youthful smile to her lips. —Such beautiful cheese.


—You want to talk about cheese? says Nico. —I'm trying to save our relationship, and your only interest is what's in your sandwich?


—What do you expect me to do? I got drunk, made a mistake. It's all over now. Can't you forget it?


—If Aisha hadn't told me, I still wouldn’t know


—Well, if you didn't know it wouldn't bother you, would it.


Nico sits back in his chair. All he wants is to feel secure with Samantha’s love.


—I trusted you, he says.


—So you’ve found someone else? Is that my fault?


—I haven't found anyone else. But I can't stand being with you, knowing I'm not loved.


She sips her coffee, the bitterness seems to have dissipated. She takes a bite from her sandwich and the soft sourdough bread squashes over her tongue, embracing it as only organic bread can. She chews and the smooth sourdough melts in her mouth, showing her fields of sun-striped wheat on a plain in Alsace, where Pierre Ricard, proud of his family’s eminence in cultivating the best organic wheat, was standing, looking out over his fields. His wife came out to join him on the veranda of their farmhouse.


—This looks ready to harvest, he said.


She showed him his phone and asked, —Who’s Mariela?


He grabbed the phone from her. —Have you been searching through my jacket?


—I was putting it away. Your phone rang. Who’s Mariela?


—I can't talk about it it now. I have to get over to the mill to inspect the wheat. It's already arranged. We'll talk later.


He hurried to the mill to check the flour that was being packaged to send to England. The same flour that would be baked and eaten adoringly by Samantha, who can't understand why her boyfriend is making such a fuss. Chewing and savouring her sandwich, she looks across the table as he tries to smile.


He collects his keys from the table. —Have you nothing to say?


She doesn't reply. Her mouth is full of sandwich, and it's wrong to speak with your mouth full.


—Bye, he says, and leaves. She chews as she watches him go and wonders if she should make a pig of herself and order another sandwich.



 About the Writer

Samantha Memi lives in London where she bakes cakes and eats them. Some of her stories have been published in magazines and can be read at