February 24, 2010
The Perfect Sandwich
One of the best parts of my day is making my afternoon sandwich. I have
grown to consider my sandwich making an artform – one that has been perfected
over several years and countless trials. Even the missteps are still edible but
they all have provided a learning experience to what has now become the perfect
Before we get started, a few items to note: 1) never ever skimp on the
bread. My grandpa once told me that the bread makes the sandwich. For most of
my early life I never understood or agreed with him – believing instead it is
what’s inside. However, like most of his observations, I would find out that he
was indeed correct. The bread is crucial because it serves – quite literally -
as the foundation of the whole enterprise and if it is bad then there is little
hope; 2) do not become too overzealous with the ingredients. Simplicity is key
and choosing a few good items is better than overloading; 3) retain an open
mind and don’t be afraid to stretch the boundaries. In my exploration -
combinations that I never thought would work end up being amazingly tasty.
Okay – so now let’s get started. As discussed above, the bread always comes
first so be sure you choose wisely. I have been moving more into the
multi-grain world and definitely like to give it a little squeeze in the store
to make sure it is soft and fresh. I am a toasting man but this is really up to
the individual and sometimes it is fun to leave it as a game time decision.
Moving to the interior – the most important element here is to keep it
SIMPLE (as referenced above). I like to stick with one type of spread, a
cheese, a meat, and one vegetable. That is it. For the spread I am a dijon
mustard man – always have been. I suppose given my proclivities for savory over
sweet, the dijon tickles me more than the honey mustard but we are all God’s
creatures. The cheese is almost always a very sharp cheddar – the kind that is
on the edge of crumbling but not quite there. I prefer to buy the blocks of
cheddar and slice on my own.
The meat can go in many different directions. I have played around with
slices so thick you could barely lift them and slices so thin you didn’t know
they were there. In the end, a good medium sliced meat works best I believe as
it is important to be able to fold it over nicely while still being able to
separate the pieces in the deli bag. The vegetable is another area where you
can experiment. I must say that I usually go with a kosher dill pickle but I
like to buy them as wholes and then slice them at home. This way that crunch is
sealed in the inside where it should be. I have also been seen using avocado as
it is my favorite of all of the vegetables. Unfortunately though you can only
use them when they are in season as there is little worse than a bad avocado.
That avocado green is mesmerizing though isn’t it – delicious.
Now for the most important part – BALANCE. What truly makes a great sandwich
is that you can enjoy every single bite because each bite contains the lovely
morsels that you so delicately choose. We have all seen the sad sandwich with
the middle stacked so high you can barely get two mouths around it while the
edges droop in loneliness. The goal here is to take your time and make sure
that the sandwich has even proportions throughout. This becomes most important
with the meat and is why I suggest above a middle-ish thickness. This allows
for the folding over and clean placement of the meat slices throughout the
layering and provides the perfect balance.
Now for the final touches. I believe a proper sandwich is not sliced down
the middle into two identical halves but rather at an angle somewhere between
the vertical and the exact diagonal. This is not just to make the sandwich look
better (although i would argue that it helps in this regard); rather, it’s true
purpose is to provide an easier angle for your mouth to enjoy a bite without
destroying your newly constructed creation. Again – a seemingly small point
that plays a significant role.
But no sandwich is complete without a chip of some sort and I would beg you
not to overlook this item. There are a huge range out there but I tend to stick
with a flavored corn or potato chip. Something with some salt or a splash of
vinegar or lime is usually always the best compliment.
Now one might I ask why is this topic relevant to anything at all. Other
than being purely just a fun part of my day to discuss, I do believe that the
principles above relate to creating a successful anything and we most certainly
try to employ these principles of simplicity and balance to the projects we
work on daily. Of course we stumble from time to time and make mistakes but the
perfect sandwich is always a work in progress.