You Will Be Missed Marion Cunningham: Fig and Ham Sandwiches on Rye Bread

Fig and ham sandwiches with butter on rye bread mark my second installment in our Cook The Book project.

We are cooking through Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book. There are six of us participating in the project: Rachel of Ode to Goodness, Sammy of Rêve du Jour, Emily of The Bon Appetit Diaries, Aimee of Homemade Trade and Claudie of The Bohemian Kitchen.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that our author, Marion Cunningham, passed away last week. She was 90 years old, and died from Alzheimer's in Walnut Creek, CA. You can read more about her in the New York Times' obituary. I'm glad we chose her book and that we can use these next few months to showcase her wonderful recipes and keep her legacy alive.

The sandwich recipe I selected, fig and ham with butter on rye bread, is a perfect example of Cunningham's style of cooking. She was known for relating recipes from home cooks for home cooks. The straightforward nature of her writing is a breath of fresh air. Though I love today's cookbooks and all the techniques, varied ingredients and multiple steps they outline, I just adore a simple home-style recipe.

As my mother, Gran Fran, put it: "Cunningham joins Dionne Lucas, Elizabeth David, and M.F.K. Fisher as much-missed writers of the joys of cooking." So right. These are the names I recall when looking through Gran Fran's cookbook collection over the years. I can remember Gran Fran reading and marking up Cunningham's books, just as I do today.

The sandwich turned out wonderfully. It would never have occurred to me to add butter to a sandwich with meat (although I do recall loving a sandwich I had in Paris that clearly had butter on top of ham). Even though I didn't have gluten-free rye bread, I did eat one triangle of this sandwich. I just couldn't resist. The sweet figs, salty ham and soft creamy butter make a heavenly combination.

So here's to you, Marion Cunningham, for leaving wonderful tomes of recipes for us to remember you by. I can't wait to cook the next installment of The Breakfast Book.

The rye bread featured in the pictures is standard-issue. You can purchase this Colorado Caraway bread from Canyon Bakehouse, online or check out their store locator to see if it's available near you. 

Fig and Ham on Rye Bread

from Marion Cunnigham's The Breakfast Book, Copyright 1987, Alfred A. Knopf

Makes 2 sandwiches


  • 4 slices rye bread
  • Butter
  • 5 ripe figs
  • 4 pieces of thinly sliced ham


  1. For 2 sandwiches, butter 2 slices of bread to the edges. Trim the blowwom end and stem from 5 ripe free figs (the Adriatic variety is delicious) and slice each one into 3 slices.
  2. Divide the slices of fig between 2 unbuttered slices of bread. Place a very thin slice of ham [I went with 2 slices on each sandwich] over each and cover with the buttered bread.
  3. Gently press down on each sandwich. Cut in half and serve.