If ‘tis sandwiches you’re wanting to know about then look no further than local mammy Valerie ‘Val’ Brodigan, who has honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Local Community Awards in the d Hotel on Monday Night.
Mammy of five Val is known throughout the town as the go-to woman for all sandwich occasions. She comes from a long line of sandwich makers and is widely credited for pioneering the diagonally cut funeral sandwich.
Val started off life at a young age and was pulled from school to help her mother make sandwiches for the local wake circuit. “There was always folk dying back then,” remembered Val. “And people do take great comfort in a good sandwich. It takes their mind off the grief.”
“Mammy used to make up a tray of sandwiches if any of the neighbours had even the whiff of a snivel. Better to be prepared for the worst. A household can be measured by the cut of their sandwiches.
“Advice? People might not realise it but sandwich making is determined by social class. If it’s a good family you’re sandwiching for make sure to slice diagonally. Other than that, cut horizontally. You’ll know you’ve erred in this regard if the sandwiches are called posh and vice-versa if the sandwiches are called pleb sambos.
“Always eat your crusts – they make you wise. I do see some adults decrusting and it saddens me. Then you see their kids at it. For me, it’s a form of child abuse, like they don’t want their children to be smarter than them.”
Val nearly quit the business early on after being accused of making the ham sandwich that killed Mama Cass; a slanderous accusation she attributes to Mrs. Reilly over the far side of the town whose nose had been put out of joint by her success.
Similarly in 1991 Val nearly packed it all in after Freddie Mercury died. She remembered trying out a new recipe for him while catering at Slane for the Queen concert there in 1986.
“He lay back on his chaise longue and scoffed three of my sandwiches without a drink. Then he said that there was some kind of magic in them and that his body felt kinda funny and he began to sweat. I thought nothing of it but within five years he was dead. I blamed myself and burnt the recipe.”
Val was only convinced that her sandwiches had nothing to do with the HIV virus Mercury contracted through her current employer, Cllr. Shanks.
“I was at a real low ebb. I wasn’t even practising any more. I didn’t get a buzz off hearing the deaths on LMFM and coming up with wake filling combinations. But Frank was great. He convinced me that it was the reckless unprotected gay sex in LA cinemas where Mr. Mercury contracted that awful disease, not from one of my sandwiches.”
There have been plenty of highs too. None higher than when she sandwiched for the Papal visit in 1979.
“That was my proudest moment so it was. If you think about it, it was like making a God sandwich.”
Val herself’s favourite sandwich is a simple salad, egg and ham affair, buttered and crusted and cut horizontally. Val currently works as Cllr. Shanks’s personal sandwich maker.
“This award is great and all, thanks yeah. But for me, nothing trumps the four Golden Butter Knife awards I have in the drawer.”