Sunday, September 26, 2010


I love sandwiches.  They are possibly the greatest food item ever invented.  Think about it.  So simple, yet so beautiful.  Two slices of bread.  That's the only rule.  You can put whatever you want in-between.  It is the ultimate in customizable foodstuffs.  Sandwiches are the Open-Source Food Item.

Okay.  Example time.  I've been currently having a secret love affair with avocado and turkey.  Without the sandwich, how would I combine these two items?  I can assure you, it would be gross.  Trying to spread avocado all over a whole turkey (the sliced lunchmeat industry would surely be nonexistent without sandwiches) would really suck.  Yet the sandwich gives us the perfect excuse to combine the two flavors without hassle.

And here we come to another main point.  Combinations.  Sandwiches are all about combinations.  What sorts of things would go good together?  What tastes will combine most effectively in our mouths to create maximum enjoyment?  These are the questions that every good sandwich maker must ask themselves.  How much mayonnaise is too much?  Salami or no salami?  Questions like these are of the utmost importance in sandwich preparation.

The incredible diversity in sandwiches is both beautiful and overwhelming.  As in music, the possibilities are endless.  In fact, I'm going to carry on the music metaphor just a little bit longer, to show you how much I love sandwiches.  A sandwich is a grand symphony.  All the different parts come together to create a truly beautiful complete piece.  Sure, you might love listening to a cellist, and you might love eating roast beef.  But when the violins join in with the cellos, the highs and lows contrast each other, dance around each other even, like a delicious slice of roast beef combined with a fresh, ripe tomato.  Then you have the second violins, the violas, the basses, the brass, the winds:  all coming together to create something much more magnificent and awe-inspiring than any of them would be solo.  The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.  That's how I feel about sandwiches.

So, next time you eat a burger, a meatball sub, an egg salad sandwich, a peanut butter and jelly, a BLT, a grilled-cheese, or any of an infinite number of sandwich possibilities, stop for a minute and think.  Would Harrison enjoy this sandwich more?  The answer is, of course, yes.  Go find and give me the sandwich.

Final Thoughs:

  • I really do like the analogy to open source software.  You can really do whatever you want with it, with no corporation or governing body to tell you what to do.  Sandwiches are the ultimate way to stick it to the man.
  • Interestingly, I don't like bacon by itself.  I've tried many times to like it.  I know that it's normal to like bacon.  I just don't like it.  Yet, when it's on a sandwich, it's one of my favorite things.  Isn't that weird?
  • I wonder who invented the sandwich.  There's probably a story there.  Anyone who feels like finding out the history of the sandwich should feel free to post it in the comment section.


  1. And who else comes to the information rescue but the resident know-it-mostly?

    The story that I have heard regarding the history of the sandwich, and I am fairly certain it is at least somewhat accurate, is as follows:

    Back in something like the 1400s or 1500s, there was a pitched card game involving the Duke of Sandwich (it is a real place, or rather was). During this game, the Duke was called to dinner. However, he was doing very well at the time and did not want to lay down his hand and leave the table. So he ordered his servant to place the meat between two rolls so he could hold the food in one hand and play cards with the other. Being an influential duke, the fashion caught on, and here we are.

    As I said, I am not absolutely confident in the accuracy of this account, but I believe it is somewhat plausible.

  2. I think it sounds plausible...

    This is what Wikipedia says:
    "Bread has been eaten with any meat or vegetables since Neolithic times. For example, the ancient Jewish sage Hillel the Elder is said to have placed meat from the Paschal lamb and bitter herbs between two pieces of matzah (or flat, unleavened bread) during Passover.[2] During the Middle Ages, thick slabs of coarse and usually stale bread, called "trenchers", were used as plates. After a meal, the food-soaked trencher was fed to a dog or to beggars, or eaten by the diner. Trenchers were the precursors of open-face sandwiches.[3] The immediate cultural precursor with a direct connection to the English sandwich was to be found in the Netherlands of the 17th century, where the naturalist John Ray observed[4] that in the taverns beef hung from the rafters "which they cut into thin slices and eat with bread and butter laying the slices upon the butter"— explanatory specifications that reveal the Dutch belegde broodje was as yet unfamiliar in England.
    Initially perceived as food men shared while gaming and drinking at night, the sandwich slowly began appearing in polite society as a late-night meal among the aristocracy. The sandwich's popularity in Spain and England increased dramatically during the 19th century, when the rise of an industrial society and the working classes made fast, portable, and inexpensive meals essential.[5]
    It was at the same time that the sandwich finally began to appear outside of Europe. In the United States, the sandwich was first promoted as an elaborate meal at supper. By the early 20th century, as bread became a staple of the United States diet, the sandwich became the same kind of popular, quick meal as was widespread in the Mediterranean.[5]
    The first written usage of the English word appeared in Edward Gibbon's journal, in longhand, referring to "bits of cold meat" as a 'Sandwich'.[6] It was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat, although he was neither the inventor nor sustainer of the food. It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and because Montagu also happened to be the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, others began to order "the same as Sandwich!"[3] It is said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards, particularly cribbage, while eating without getting his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.[3]
    The rumour in its familiar form appeared in Pierre-Jean Grosley's Londres (Neichatel, 1770), translated as A Tour to London 1772;[7] Grosley's impressions had been formed during a year in London, 1765. The sober alternative is provided by Sandwich's biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who suggests Sandwich's commitments to the navy, to politics and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his desk."