A train station sandwich is positive proof that I've arrived in Europe. When the airplane touches down on the runway, I'm not there. As we wait for our luggage and stumble through customs, we aren't there. When I make my way through Rome, from the airport to the train station, with three children and a month's worth of luggage, the journey may be coming to an end, but the trip has not yet begun. I have to have the sandwich.
Last summer, we arrived at the train station in Rome hot, sweaty and tired, piled all of our things on the ground and waited for our next leg, a three hour train ride to Ancona. I sat on the floor of the station, cradling a less than pleased five year old, and threw 20 euros at my oldest son. He had been in Europe once before, never in Italy, but he knew what to do.
He came back with two caprese sandwiches on fresh, crusty ciabbatta bread, two folded pizza slices, four waters and the all-important Coca Light. Though we had been traveling for 20 hours by then, I felt renewed. I snapped a picture to mark the beginning of Italian Summer 2012, even though the five year old wasn't quite there yet. The train station meal gave us a second wind and we were able to smile through the (un air-conditioned) train ride, holding it together long enough to pick up a rental car and make the final 30 minute drive to our friends' home in the country.
I've eaten plenty of train station sandwiches in Europe, and they all have their charm. Some of them are more elaborate, while others contain thin slices of cheese and prosciutto, with barely a hint of condiment, just enough sustenance to change my outlook and remind me that I'm on a lovely European vacation. The best ones are eaten after running for a train, missing it and deciding to just enjoy a sandwich instead of freaking while waiting for the next one.
Are there certain foods you associate with specific places? Do you ever eat them at home, or are they reserved for travel?
(Images: Anne Postic)