My childhood was punctuated by a neon-yellow, quilted vinyl picnic basket. Nestled in the backseat of the car every family vacation, road trip, or beach day, it was all but the fifth member of the Ayer household. The picnic basket generally portended good things: getting some fresh air and stretching my legs; ceasing my father’s favorite Carnatic music tapes or crackly AM news updates; linking up with other road-trip kids while exploring gas-station candy aisles. But as the other children returned to their families and put in orders for their cheeseburgers and onion rings on these rest-stop breaks, our picnic basket also meant something else for me: a homemade, potato curry-filled sandwich.
Wrapped in foil and stored in the empty plastic bread bag, still cold from being in the fridge the night before, this sandwich fueled our journeys great and small. It brought together a lot of my favorite things, including green pea-flecked, cumin-spiced potato curry, buttered slices of white bread, a sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese, and lots of chopped cilantro. The the whole thing was griddled in a handy Equity-brand sandwich maker, which sealed the sandwich shut, crisped up the edges, and portioned it into neat little triangles that were easy to transport. We’d eat the triangles dunked in tomato ketchup or cilantro chutney, alongside banana chips or an Indian snack mix of lentils, peanuts, and deep-fried rice-or chickpea-flour crispy bits, called “mixture,” and wash it all down with chocolate milk (also in the picnic basket). The sandwich was objectively tasty. I’d eat it again now, if I could.