Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Things That Don't Suck: Sandwiches

Despite the title of this blog, we must admit that not everything sucks. Some things simply defy all attempts to criticize them, and we must reluctantly declare them not "good," exactly, but not completely terrible. Today's entry: the sandwich.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, I bet you ate a sandwich today. I know I did: turkey, lettuce and tomato on a roll. It was so good, I might go out and get another sandwich after I finish this post. That's not an unusual day for me either: I've eaten at least a sandwich a day since elementary school, when my mom was making them for me. Since then I've doubled in size, grew facial hair, graduated from high school and college, moved across the country, and discovered sex and recreational drug use. But sandwiches remain a constant presence in my life.

So yeah, I might be biased in this case. But look me in the eye and tell me that sandwiches are a bad idea.

Unless you're even more of a contrarian than I am, you probably aren't inclined to argue that point though. I have no data to back this up, but putting meat or vegetables between two pieces of bread (or wrapping it in a tortilla, or using pita bread--same difference) has to be the most popular idea in the world. Sandwiches are bigger than Jesus: there are only 2.1 billion Christians in the world, but at least that many sandwiches (again, no data) are eaten every day. You can eat them on trains or buses or while walking to work, you can make them in minutes, or buy them at any restaurant or deli. In some big cities, like New York, you have dozens of places per block where you can buy sandwiches--and you'll hardly ever be let down.

Sandwiches have been around for a long time, too. According to Wikipedia, Hillel the Elder, the ancient Jewish sage, was the first to figure it out, putting bitter herbs and lamb between two pieces of matzah, making him the direct ancestor of the modern Jewish deli. Thanks to cultural hegemony, however, we don't ask for pastrami hillels. The naming rights were stolen, like everything else, by the English--we call them after this guy, who didn't invent anything but ate a lot of hillels, like a 18th century Jared. I've always thought that the myth of "Lord Sandwich" was a little unfair, as it claims that the English came up with a culinary innovation that people around the world enjoyed.

But whatever their origins, sandwiches remain cheap, portable, relatively nutritious, and adaptable to any situation. The possibilities are endless--what can't you put between two pieces of bread? You can class things up with a filet mignon and portobella mushroom panini, or you can make peanut butter and jelly and spend seventeen cents. You can overload a reuben with corned beef and sauerkraut or put some hummus to a sundried tomato and roasted zucchini sandwich. The sandwich cuts across all class lines, sexual persuasions, religions, and nationalities. With the right kind of meat, even cannibals can enjoy a sandwich.

This doesn't mean that sandwiches don't suck individually. Some sandwiches are bland thanks to bland ingredients, you can get food poisoning from undercooked meat in sandwiches, the bread can be moldy, or a disgruntled Subway employee can spit swine-flu-infected spit into your sandwich. Or KFC can come out with a disgusting abomination that will kill anyone who eats it. But the idea of a sandwich is good. And I'm about to go eat another one.

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