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Sandwiches: A Social Revolution

A chart showing the philosophical positions that people can generally take when discussing what makes up a sandwich. (Reddit photo/dixego)

How would you define a sandwich? Seems simple, right? The Oxford English Dictionary thinks so, too, defining a sandwich as “an item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them, eaten as a light meal.” However, I’m here to challenge that idea and discuss the implications of being a bit more open-minded when it comes to important ideas like this.

Let’s break down that definition— “an item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them….” Now that statement seems vague and is left wide-open to interpretation. For example, what is bread? Oxford Dictionary defines that as “food made of flour, water, and yeast mixed together and baked,” but would we all agree if I said that an ice cream sandwich is a sandwich? I think we would. And that right there is why this question goes so much deeper than we would normally consider.

According to our chart (above), that would make Oxford Dictionary a structure purist, but an ingredient rebel when it comes to making a sandwich, which means that they’re somewhat liberal in their definition.

I interviewed four students and asked them what they would define as a sandwich. Only one of the students agreed with the formal definition and another of them was an ingredient and structure purist, describing a sandwich as, “a half-pound of Angus beef, cooked medium-rare, with portobello mushrooms, onions, barbecue sauce, and two and a half strips of hickory smoked bacon on a brioche bun.” The third student was a structure rebel and an ingredient purist and the fourth student was both a structure and ingredient rebel. So, when I asked the students my second question, “Is a Pop-Tart a sandwich,” most of them gave me a weird look and said no, but the structure and ingredient rebel told me, “Yes.”

And I have to ask, why can’t a Pop-Tart be a sandwich? There was a huge social media trend a while back that discussed whether a hot dog was a sandwich; the structure for that is one piece of bread—not two. So, in that case, a Pop-Tart would be a sandwich. Its structure is one piece of bread wrapped around the filling, which means if we’re even having the discussion of whether a hot dog is a sandwich then we must discuss whether a Pop-Tart is a sandwich as well.

The questions I ask myself now are, what makes a sandwich, and why is it treated as such a strict form?

Sandwiches are being underutilized as the medium of expression they truly are.  Limiting sandwiches to as strict a definition as the Oxford Dictionary is the same as limiting our creative forms of expression. In this regard, sandwiches are an art form that is being restricted by the current purist attitude towards them in society.

Society needs to reevaluate its understanding of expression and the implications of limiting our forms of it. We need to all be structure and ingredient rebels and we need to use sandwiches as the medium they were meant to be, which is one of creativity, expression, and freedom. Instead of limiting ourselves to “what is a sandwich,” we should be saying, “what isn’t a sandwich?”

I emailed Kellogg to ask them if a Pop-Tart is a sandwich, and while I have not yet received a response, I will update this story should I receive one.