A few months before his death, songwriter Warren Zevon made what he knew would be the last of his many appearances on David Letterman’s show. During the segment, Dave asked his friend what his diagnosis with terminal stomach cancer had taught him about life and death. Zevon, whose songs showcased a famously dark sense of humor, paused for a beat before responding.
Zevon’s choice of metaphor was no accident. What he knew is that sandwiches belong to a class of simple pleasures that are too often taken for granted. As food writers Jonathan Gold and Stirling Kelso observed in a piece for Travel and Leisure magazine, the formula is pretty basic: SANDWICH = BREAD + NOT BREAD + BREAD. But within this modest framework, the sandwich’s potential for variation is limited only by one’s imagination. Sandwiches are both humble and high-class, with as many or as few components as you like. Sandwiches are hot and cold, small and large, and enjoyed in all corners of the world.
Sandwiches are contextual. They’re personal, and they’re nostalgic. Maybe more so than any other food item, the time and place in which a sandwich is experienced is part and parcel of how the sandwich remembered. I have a theory, as yet untested, that if one were to ask 100 people to name their all-time favorite sandwich, 90 of them would describe the way their moms or dads or nannies would cut the crusts off their peanut butter and honey, or put sliced hot dogs on their grilled cheese. Fill in the blank with your own memory.
I realized a couple of months ago that I spend what reasonable people might consider far too much time thinking and talking about sandwiches. And not just eating sandwiches. During an average day, I wonder whether an open-faced sandwich is really a sandwich at all. I marvel at how the Cold Cut Trio from the Subway at 14th and K tastes exactly like the Cold Cut Trios I ate growing up outside Akron, Ohio. I need an outlet for these thoughts. I’ve forced my fiancée (and others, but mostly her) to suffer too many tiresome rants about why a “Reuben on pumpernickel” isn’t quite a Reuben, and why she’ll never understand the po’ boy sandwich until she eats one in the French Quarter.
While I might ruminate on the subject more than the average person, I know I’m not unique in my love of sandwiches. I suspect most people love them as much I do. And that’s the point of Eat a Sandwich. My hope for this site is that it will encourage you to savor, appreciate and enjoy every sandwich you’re lucky enough to eat.
To be clear, I have no formal culinary background, I do not claim any particular expertise and, most importantly, I am not a critic. As previously stated, the sandwich experience is so contextual and personal that assuming any pretense of objectivity would be silly. I’ll try to convey which sandwiches I enjoy most and why, but I’m under no illusion that my opinions are any more informed or authoritative than yours. Rather, I hope you will feel compelled to try these sandwiches yourself, form your own opinions and let us know what you think.
What you will find at Eat a Sandwich is a celebration of the sandwich in all its forms. Content will include sandwich-related news items on issues of local concern, field reports, topical features, photography, artwork and other media. With the goal of fostering a community of like-minded sandwich lovers, readers will be encouraged to share their experiences and interact through the comments, and regular contributors will be sought and featured.
And I promise to be more concise in the future. Eat more sandwiches, and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.