Some say a sandwich is just a sandwich. A simple plebian food made in a minimum of time, a minimum of effort, and a minimum of creativity. Defined by Webster as two slices of bread with meat, jelly, cheese, or some other filling between them, one could hardly wish for a more prosaic food. So why is it, one may ask, that every culture, and every individual holds the humble sandwich so dear?
Would the Jew of Eastern-European descent pass up his coveted corn beef on rye with pickles on the side? Would the Frenchmen say non to his baguette with butter? Or would a Russian not exchange his bottle of vodka for herring on black bread. Would a Mexican not shout Ole at the smell of hot tortilla burrito? How could an Englishmen drink tea without a couple of soggy finger sandwiches? We can be sure that a Middle-Eastern man would sooner part with his Kaffiya then his falafel, and say, what would July 4th be without the traditional hamburger? So truly the sandwich is much more than two pieces of bread slapped together. It’s a cultural statement.
A sandwich is also all about comfort. A person seeking comfort might revert to the sandwiches of his childhood, and the warm memories they evoke. The peanut butter and jelly spread onto squishy white bread innocent of nutrients, lovingly packed by mom in a red tin lunchbox. Or the perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwich splattered with ketchup at his behest, just the right thing after a fun afternoon in the snow. A sandwich is a comfort food, associated with mother’s love.
If man is truly what he eats then one can learn about man’s character by his choice of sandwich. Does alfalfa sprouts on whole-wheat not speak of one’s commitment to health? Or what of the man who devours steak on a white hoagie with dollops of mayonnaise, does his choice speak of his lust for life or mere gluttony? Perhaps one’s choice of sandwich can indicate ones attitude towards, long strenuous and somewhat bland living, or drink and be merry for tomorrow you might die.
From all this talk of sandwiches we can see that a sandwich is not merely just a sandwich, but a statement of culture, revisitations of childhood memories, or how’s about an evaluation of one’s approach to life. There is so much more I can express about my belief that sandwiches are a true expression of what the existential nature of man is, but sadly enough my stomach is yearning to express my true essence, so I think I might simply go and make myself a sandwich.
Reprinted without permission from my friend Adena