Thursday, June 1, 2017


“A frozen moment when everyone sees what’s between the slices of bread.”

When I was a kid, I was generally praised by my parents (amid much condemnation on other matters) because I was not a “fussy eater.”   There were no battles about what I ate because my parents knew that I’d eat most things, and if I said I didn’t want to eat something I must really hate it. 

But one of the things I had trouble with back then was other people’s sandwiches.   I was happy eating my mum’s sandwiches, but not other people’s.  They frightened me, they made me anxious.  There could have been anything in there. 
I avoided them when I could, and if I had to I did force down sandwiches made by people other than my mum, but I always had a fear that something horrible might have been slipped in there.
In retrospect I can see how irrational (and perhaps Freudian) this was, and I don’t know why this applied to sandwiches, but not to stews or pies or soups, which were just as likely to contain something alien.  And the whole thing reached an apotheosis with sandwiches containing egg mayonnaise (British nomenclature) or egg salad (American).  That seemed like a form specifically designed to hide dubious substances.

Well, I got over it.  These days I can eat just about anybody’s sandwiches.  And I’m not saying there aren’t weird and alien things in some of them, there probably are, but you know, I’m a strong lad, I don’t worry about them.

But there is problem for the food blogger, and I suppose for the food photographer, and no doubt for the food stylist, when it comes to sandwiches.  Take a photograph of a sandwich on a plate and all you see is bread.  You see the outside but not the inside, and the inside is really the important part.

Above, for instance, is the daily special from a restaurant called Soda Pop’s in LA – and to be honest I don’t even remember exactly what was in it.  I think it was some variation on a Cuban sandwich (so pork was definitely in there), but they were offering it with pineapple, which I asked them to hold and they very obligingly did – and it was perfectly good, but as an image it lacks some crucial information

Of course you can open up a sandwich and get a look at what’s inside – and this may be done for the sake of the photograph, this one is a bouillabaisse sandwich from the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, New York.  But opening it up feels a bit like cheating.

         The grilled cheese sandwich is especially inscrutable - there’s no knowing what’s melted in there – and opening it up doesn’t tell you much, because it’s all just goo in there anyway:

My companion who was served the thing below, assures me this was the worst grilled cheese sandwich she ever ate, and I’m perfectly happy to believe her:

Sometimes the sandwich is served open face, like this combo of egg and chopped liver from Sherman’s Deli in Palm Springs, but I must say I spend a certain amount of time wondering whether an open sandwich counts as a real sandwich.

Sometimes you open up a sandwich and find disappointment.  This one from the café at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, in Palm Desert, looked like this from the outside:

But open it up and it looked like this:

To be absolutely fair, there was probably just about enough tuna in this sandwich, but it had all been deposited down one end, which shows a certain lack of love in its construction.

Your best hope may be that a sandwich is so full of goodness that the contents are bursting out and you can clearly see what you’re getting, this is a Philly Cheese steak sandwich.  Actually from Denny’s.  No sandwich snobbery in these parts.

But they guy who really addressed this problem, and succeeded about as well as anybody could was Jon Chonko, in his book Scanwiches.  It’s an amazing little volume:

If Mr. Chonko is to be believed, he took sandwiches, sliced through them, put one half on a flatbed scanner (actually his girlfriend’s flatbed scanner) and took a scan.  The results look amazingly good, and I can’t help thinking there’s a lot of art being employed to hide the art.  Surely the average sandwich is likely to leak and collapse the moment you put in on a scanner, so I imagine there must be some clamps, maybe a black glove hand holding the sandwich in place, but that’s OK, I’m happy enough for the sandwich to keep some of its mystery.

As, apparently, is Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones.  According to his autobiography he gave his first wife (I guess that would be Krissy) “a Quaalude sandwich” so that he could he could “flirt” with the woman who was going to be her replacement, that would be Jo.

What did I tell you about alien substances in sandwiches?

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