Photo: Kevin Pang

My mother has many fantastic qualities. Cooking was never one of them. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to cook, she just worked her ass off—often on the night shift—and our dinners tended to be quick, easy and often created with the assistance of Campbell’s condensed soup.

Some of my friends growing up on the Irish-Catholic Southwest side of Chicago had the type of moms who spent hours baking elaborately decorated cookies for our Girl Scout troop meetings or preparing D.I.Y. ice cream sundae “bars” for our sleepovers. My mom usually didn’t have time for that and I liked ordering pizza better anyway.

Kath and her martini. (Photo: Jen Sabella)

Mommmm why can’t you make Puppy Chow like Katie’s mom does?” I’d whine. “I want to bring Pigs in a Blanket to my next school party!”

What an ungrateful little turd I was.

Sometime in middle school, my mom started collecting items from The Pampered Chef, a company founded in the Chicago suburbs in 1980 that had a Tupperware-like popularity among basic white people like us. The company sells its kitchen products through parties, and at some point she picked up some bread tubes shaped as flowers, stars and hearts—and a recipe to go along with them.

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That recipe was for cucumber sandwiches, a snack typically associated with summer and British people. This recipe, however, was the American Midwest encapsulated.

Mayonnaise. Cream cheese. Pillsbury dough. The Midwestern appetizer trifecta.

To our shock, my mom had a culinary hit on her hands. The snack became most popular around Christmastime, when people would demand she bring the addictive open-faced sammies to their holiday events.

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A typical holiday whiskey party at my place. (Photo: Jen Sabella)

I started making them in my teens, and still do to this day. When I tell folks what’s in them, their face scrunches with skepticism. Suspicious partygoers would ignore them for a while. Then, before you know it, the laughing stock of the snack table was the first to go, like clockwork.

So here goes. If you are inept in the kitchen like I am (though I like to think I’m getting better), they’re the perfect, ultra-easy crowd pleaser.

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Thanks, mom. You’re way cooler than Katie’s lame mom.


Kathy’s Amazing Cucumber Sandwiches

Makes 18-22 sandwiches

Photo: Kevin Pang

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The thing that makes these sandwiches special are the Pampered Chef Bread Tubes, which have been discontinued. They’re available all over the internet for cheap, though. If not, try to make the french loaf narrow when you bake it, so the slices are large enough to hold a cucumber slice but not too much larger. A store-bought French loaf will work as well.

(Skip this step if you don’t own a bread baking tube: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bread tube very lightly with cooking spray and take each of your Pillsbury loafs out of their package. Place the raw dough in each tube and make sure to fasten both ends of the tubes with the handy caps they come with. Place tubes upright on a cookie sheet and bake for one hour. Let ‘em cool for 30 minutes or so when they finish.)

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced a quarter-inch thick
  • 1 packet Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing and Recipe Mix
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (also works with Veganaise)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese
  • Dill
  • 2 tubes of Pillsbury Crusty French Loaf

Combine the mayo, cream cheese and Italian seasoning in a bowl. Use a hand mixer until everything is blended nicely, but still a bit thick. Throw it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Slice your loaf into half-inch pieces. Slather cream cheese-mayo mixture onto each bread slice. Place one cucumber, sprinkle with dill.

Eat, enjoy and make sure you have breath mints handy.

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