Sandwich Theory

by incomparablyjonah

“Too few people understand a really good sandwich.”

Why such quotations by eccentric food writer, James Beard, do not appear as impromptu topics is beyond me. Regardless of that fact, today I wish to discuss the ever important topic of sandwiches. Sandwiches are classic lunch fare in many cultures, however, they carry with them a stigma of a lack of refinement. In my mind, that couldn’t possibly be further from the truth. For it is sandwiches that provide engineering skills and mechanical mastery into the culinary world. It’s in the art of sandwich making that we can find a way to take otherwise difficult ingredients and transport them conveniently between slices of bread. As a matter of fact, there is an entire science behind sandwich making, something I like to call “Sandwich Theory”.

Leonardo Da Vinci once commented that “Instrumental or mechanical science is the noblest and, above all others, the most useful.” While I’m not sure if I entirely agree with the quotation, I would wager that mechanical or instrumental science most certainly has it’s place in the world, and most certainly has it’s place in the sandwich world. That brings me to the topic of sandwich theory: Sandwich Theory isn’t some philosophical class you skipped in college about Western and Russian Imperialism sandwiching 3rd World countries between their hegemony. Sandwich theory is, in fact, the science of sandwich making. It applies scientific, engineering, artistic and ethical standards to the creation of sandwiches.

Sandwiches are not an easy craft to master: Sandwich Theory has a few basic standards or pillars, if you will, that lay the foundation to sound sandwich making. One misstep from these pillars and your sandwich is ruined: That’s what separates the sandwiches I design from the sandwiches your mom put in your lunch box only for you to auction it off during lunch hour like a dealer on the black market. View this as your guidebook to follow, your rules to comply with or a moral code. This is your culinary Torah or, say, like the pillars of Islam. Except not.

Let’s take a look at the components of Sandwich Theory:

1. A Bread Barrier

Bread Barriers are sandwich theory’s bread and butter. I’m not sure if that terrible pun even made sense, so whatever. Basically, if you’re making a sandwich, you can’t have your ingredients touching the bread without a spread of some kind. If you just have meat, cheese and a few standard vegetables, this will cause the sandwich to be dry and altogether unappealing, like some Presidential candidates whose names I won’t mention. On the other hand, if you put oil and vinegar or some liquid substance on the sandwich, without any barrier of fat or a spread of some kind, the results will be disastrous  Whether it’s Au Jus, Italian dressing or any liquid at all, the bread will quickly become soggy. How does one prevent either of these disasters from happening? A protective spread of some kind on the bread. This can range from mayonnaise based products to mustard. Whatever it is, it’ll protect the sandwich from being too dry or too soggy, protecting the bread from any possible harm. This is the first and perhaps most important step in sandwich theory.

This sandwich seems innocent enough, right? It’s from Quiznoes, it should be decent (well…not really…but that’s another discussion). However, in this sandwich lies something much darker and much murkier than that poor excuse for beef they served. This sandwich’s melted cheese and slices of beef may look tempting, but they are not to be trusted: Without a fat barrier, this sandwich will soon taste dry, leaving you to drown your sorrows with soda refills (and only to tragically discover that they serve Diet Pepsi). Oh, and that melted cheese that stirred your imagination? That cheese’s grease will soak into the sandwich before the cashier overcharges you, leaving you a dry sandwich with greasy bread and no diet coke to drink as your solace. Such is the importance of observing Sandwich Theory.

So, who among you have had mishaps with “Bread Barriers”? What’s your idea of a perfect sandwich? And what else do you think are among the five pillars of sandwich theory?

Check in later for the next update on the five pillars of “Sandwich Theory”!