The Humble Sandwich

Food embraces tradition and occasion. Even a simple sandwich for lunch, how or when you take a cup of espresso (if at all), or a casual meal on the run reflects culture, tradition and occasion. Does your daily “routine” of meals, or favorite meal out reflect who you are as an individual, what you love about dining, or your cultural background? Did you grow up in one food culture, but now live in another? What are the different food culture’s you’ve experienced?

Have you heard the saying if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing correctly?

Let me tell you about sandwiches.

Sandwiches are certainly one of those things worth doing, and worth doing correctly. When I sit down to consume a sandwich, I want to have a memorable experience. I don’t see the point in bothering with a sandwich if you’re just going to slap some filling between something carby and call it a day.

Sandwiches are important. They’re universal. They deserve time and special attention.

For brevity’s sake, we’ll stick to sliced bread in this discussion; bagels and rolls and tortillas deserve posts of their own.

The first thing that must be considered is slice correlation. If you’re opening a fresh loaf, but you don’t like the end slice, that’s fine. But what you must do it skip two slices, not just one. The only exception to this rule is when no one in the house will eat those two poor neglected ends, in which case, by all means, throw the first one away or put it in your duck pond stash or crouton bag or whatever. Now, the reason you must skip two slices is so the long-suffering end-slice-eater has a matched set of bookends for their sandwich.

If you don’t understand, grab a new loaf of sliced bread and try to make a sandwich from the end and a middle slice. It’s not a happy sandwich, is it? That border all the way around the smaller end piece ruins the whole sandwich aesthetic. But now you know, skip two and everyone will be happy.

Condiments. Condiments must go on both sides, or neither. Nothing will unbalance your day more than a top-heavy mustard sandwich. Or a bottom-heavy one, for that matter. Apply a thin, even layer to the corresponding sides of each slice of bread. Make sure it goes all the way out to the crust–this is why the slices must match.

Once slathered with the flavor of your choice, it’s time to move on to the cheese. Ideally, cheese touches the condimented bread. Why? Because cheese comes in slices, unless you’re making some type of blue or feta sandwich. Cheese slices generally hold the shape they’re assigned. They’ll stick to the condiments like a stamp to a letter, and if you’re a two-slice kind of person, this is crucial when it comes time to fold the sandwich into one cohesive unit.

Are you heating this sandwich? If so, skip the vegetables for now; if not, lettuce goes next to cheese, then tomato, onion, pickle, whatever your little heart desires. The key point to remember when it comes to vegetables is that they must lie flat. Normal bread will never survive a sandwich that juts out in the center or to the side, even with a cheese shield.

Some people consider meat the be-all and end-all of any sandwich that’s not a PB&J; I beg to differ. While the contribution of meat to the overall experience of a sandwich is significant, it isn’t essential. You want a good sandwich, try mayo, cheddar, and white onion on homemade bread. It’s delicious. I used to eat them daily.

But we’ll assume that you’re making a meaty sandwich. Perhaps you’re using sliced meats: in this case, layer and fold them to exacting standards so that the same number of layers cover every square inch of bread. This will ensure that every bite is as enjoyable as the last. However, perhaps you’ve decided to involve meatballs, or even chunks pulled from the carcass of a leftover turkey. In this case, you have two options: slightly squash the larger pieces of meat so that when the sandwich is completed you will have approximately the same volume of meat throughout, or break out the knife and cutting board and slice them evenly, and follow the procedure for pre-sliced meats.

Now. Did you put the meat on top of the vegetables, or is each on its own side? For ease of combination, I recommend layering the meats on top of the veg. When you’ve done that, it’s no challenge at all the flip the remaining lonely slice of bread, with or without cheese, onto the top of the tower of filling.

Once you’ve flipped, the only step left is slicing that bad boy. There are two types of people in the world: squares and triangles. Which are you?

And for crying out loud, get a plate and arrange that sucker attractively!

Tuesday Truthiness at TBP