What Is a Sandwich? Consult the Sandwich Spectrum

© CON POULOS

 

What is a sandwich? It’s a question that has plagued mankind since the time of Socrates. Well, it at least plagued one person who used the question to teach people about Socrates.

Most recently the sandwich-hood debate has revolved around whether or not a hot dog qualifies as part of the breaded brotherhood. Over the last several months interlocutors have posed that question to various professional athletes. Given how many franks are sold in ballparks each year, we suppose pro-ballers must have some kind of expertise on the tube steak's sandwich ontology.

But to offer the hot dog, or any other possible sandwich, only a binary designation of “is” or “is not” does a great disservice to the creativity of the people who developed these dishes. Being a sandwich is not like “being six feet tall” or “being pregnant.” It is possible to be somewhat a sandwich. 

Historically, the first item to be called a sandwich was simply salt beef between two slices of bread. Sticking by that definition even the simple use of condiments could disqualify a dish. The legal definition in America (per the USDA) is a product that “must contain at least 35 percent cooked meat and no more than 50 percent bread… [typically] consisting of two slices of bread or the top and bottom sections of a sliced bun that enclose meat or poulty.” Sorry grilled cheese.

Though even with their strict definition America’s legal arbiter of sandwiches refers to burritos as “sandwich-like.”

Then again, some things we call sandwiches seem like they don’t belong, like ice cream sandwiches. (They are a dessert people. Deal with it.)

Is it between two slices of bread? Is it surrounded by bread? Is it a meal on its own? Is it actually a food? Questions like these determine how close any thing is to the sandwich ideal.

So we put together The Sandwich Spectrum, to fully explore what is a sandwich, what is not and everything in between.

Related: Sandwiches Across America 
A Funny Case Against the Practice of Tipping 
The Simple Beauty of a Perfect Steak Sandwich

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