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What is a Sandwich? The Big Question

What is a sandwich? This is not a rhetorical question, nor is it a koan.

The answer is an important starting point for any extended sandy discussion. We regret that we failed to address the question at the outset; the resulting lack of clarity has led to questionable reviews of calzones and sandwich crackers. So we asked ourselves, only to realize there’s no easy answer.

Common sense and the “It’s What’s Between’s” header dictate that a sandwich is two pieces of bread with some foodstuff in between. Unless it only has one piece of bread, in which case it’s an open-face sandwich. But a piece of bread with jelly on it surely isn’t a sandwich. But if you add peanut butter to that same jellied toast, do you make an open-face PB&J? Is a wrap a sandwich; if so, is a burrito? What about burgers — are they sandwiches? My gut says no, but I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Ever since one of our damned interns (he’s no longer with us) raised the question, the whole sandyblog operation has been fruitlessly debating what exactly dictates sandwichhood.

Our publicist Mindy, who was on her middle school’s debate team, suggested we begin by consulting the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, a sandwich is either “two or more slices of bread with a layer (as of meat or cheese) spread between them” or “something resembling a sandwich.”

This definition clarifies nothing, and completely fails to address any of the troubling scenarios mentioned above. Rather than helping, the dictionary only deepened the “It’s What’s Between’s” staff’s collective existential crisis. By Merriam-Webster’s standards, the adorable kitty on the left is a sandwich while a classic open-face is not. Wrong.

Unfortunately most of the sandystaff went to journalism schools, meaning we lack both financial stability and the framework to answer Big Questions. Aside from Mindy’s idea, the best we could come up with was to check the AP Stylebook — it is, after all, the journalist’s bible and holds the answers to most of our workday questions. The Stylebook was massively unhelpful. Although it contains an entry for “sandwich,” it says nothing further. All it says, with no explanation, is: sandwich (No punctuation, no nothing. At least the adjacent entry for sandstorm suggests the reader “See weather terms.”).

Clearly, this question is too big to be answered by mere reference books. Likely, we will need to call upon the combined wisdom of science, religion and philosophy to make any headway.

In coming weeks, we will consult our friends at the University of Colorado at Denver Sandylab, along with all the religious studies and philosophy majors we know, in the hopes of finding answers. In the meantime, if you have any insight or suggestions, please comment here. Any help you can provide will be a great comfort in these uncertain times.


Michael said…
This question is for Mindy: What middle school did you attend? Was it Moore in Arvada, CO?
Alex Headrick said…
Michael - I e-mailed Mindy (she usually works from home) and she did go to Moore. How did you know?

Here's the e-mail chain:

From: Wilson, Mindy
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 9:20 AM
To: Headrick, Alex
Subject: Middle school question

Yeah, weird. Is someone stalking me?

Mindy Wilson
Public Relations Consultant
It’s What’s Between


From: Headrick, Alex
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 9:12 AM
To: Wilson, Mindy
Subject: Middle school question

Hey Mindy,

Someone on the blog was asking what middle school you went to. Did you go to Moore in Arvada?


Alex Headrick
It’s What’s Between
mlq3 said…
perhaps referring to the legendary origins of the sandwich -to that gambling earl or duke or whatever he was of sandwich (i seem to recall, the same fellow who temporarily gave his name to the sandwich islands, today's hawaii), who was such an avid gambler he didn't have time for proper meals. and so, they would put stuff in between slices of bread so his lordship could fritter his fortune away. perhaps that's it: items meant to be eaten by means of their being cocooned in bread, so as to make eating easier? which makes an open-faced sandwich only an unauthorized variation.
Alex Headrick said…
mlq3: Interesting ... taking it back to the beginning. That makes sense. I agree that the earl/duke's creation must be a sandwich in its purest form. I think you're on to something. So that would rule out open faced sandwiches, but what about burgers? The Burger Quandary still troubles me.

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