Food & Drink

Is it a sandwich? A definitive (and correct) guide

Posted by
Tom Victor
Published

This week marks British Sandwich Week, aka the easiest themed week of the year to honour.

In fact, you have probably honoured it with at least one of your lunches this week already, perhaps without even realising.

For years, the accepted definition of a sandwich has been too restrictive. Sure, the classic bread-filling-bread combination counts, but why should it end there?

It’s time to settle things once and for all. To determine whether that food in your hand is a sandwich or not. And yes, before you ask, this list is objectively correct.

Supermarket chicken and stuffing sarnie

Yes. Undoubtedly a sandwich, and a solid choice in any £3 meal deal.

Cheese and coleslaw on white bread

Also a sandwich, but please, love yourself a little.

Reuben

Now we’re talking. Not only a sandwich, but the best sandwich you can get. Hot salt beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing, between two slices of rye bread. If you add pickles then it’s still a sandwich, but it’s no longer the best.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel

The bread is a different shape, but there’s still doughy goodness on either side of a simple filling combination. It definitely counts.

Bacon baguette

Not the purest example, but it’s bread-bacon-bread. No complaints here.

Hot dog

A controversial choice, perhaps, but working on the bacon baguette principle you have to allow it in. If you see a hot dog on a menu in the ‘sandwiches’ section you might raise an eyebrow at first, before realising it’s only been excluded in the past in a misguided effort to protect the integrity of lesser sandwiches to stop them from dying off.

Cheeseburger

The consistency of the filling shouldn’t ever be the determining factor in this argument. If you ran the burger through a reversing machine, sent it back through Bovine University and returned it to its original form, only to then kill, roast and slice the animal and place it inside two halves of a bun, you’d be screaming in the face of anyone who denied its sandwichness until they left your house and never spoke to you again. It’s a sandwich, full stop.

PB&J with the crusts cut off

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Not only a sandwich, but an integral part of the longevity of the NBA. No, really.

Taco

A taco is a sandwich – allow me to explain: You pick it up by the bread equivalent, the filling remains in the middle, and a bite includes bread-filling-bread. It really is that simple. If you’re not eating it that way – for example if you’re scooping out the filling and then eating the shell – then you have far bigger problems than mere sandwich semantics. I’ll make an exception for that Taco Bell special where the chicken is the shell, but that’s because I’m barely acknowledging it as food – it’s essentially a gourmet version of whatever you can reach with your hands without falling off the sofa.

Burrito

Logic suggests this should also count, but it turns out a burrito is its own food group. Double-carbs puts it in a grey area, like souvlaki, and you tend to hold both by the foil rather than the bread so I’m just going to let it keep doing its own thing on the sidelines. It’s not a sandwich, because it doesn’t need that kind of accolade to flourish.

Doner kebab

This is complex, and it comes down to how it is served. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for a doner, so I’ve made one of my own (a rule, not a doner). If it’s served in a way that allows you to eat more than 60% with your hands and not a fork, then we’re good. This means a doner in pitta with salad is a sandwich, doner meat and chips isn’t, obviously, and a German-style doner with the meat spilling out of that triangular sesame-seeded bread like Free Willy jumping out of the ocean is right on the borderline.

Ice cream sandwich

The clue’s in the name, here. Sure, you need something sturdier than supermarket white bread, but what kind of killjoy looks at you replacing your Kingsmill or Hovis with not one but two cookies and says “no, this doesn’t count”. Fuck those guys and let me enjoy my ice cream sandwich in peace.

Bourbon biscuit

Right, I realise I’ve dug myself into a hole here, so instead of backtracking I’m going to roll with it. Not only is a bourbon biscuit a sandwich (see also custard cream; oreo; jammie dodger), but it is a sandwich in its purest form. Whereas it’s easy to peel off the top bun on your burger or turn a grilled cheese into a croque madame, kicking structural integrity in the gonads in the process, you have to make a real effort to deconstruct a bourbon. And the sort of person who does that probably plucks the wings off flies too, the weird bastard.

Cannolo

See above. Obviously its fillings are limited to whatever you can pipe into the shell, but why should it be restricted to sweet fillings like lemon ricotta or pistachio cream? I’m not saying I’d eat a cannolo filled with pate every day, but I’d try it once. A sandwich, sure, but I’m not too happy about it.

Montecristo

Purists might question the sweet-savoury balance, or call the meat-cheese-jam combo ‘deviant’, but let me ask you this: you have cranberry jelly with your Christmas turkey and fruit chutney with cheese and crackers, so a marriage of the three just makes sense. Obviously we’ve got no complaints with the structure, either, so it’s a sandwich, if a controversial one.

Francesinha

The phrase ‘heart attack on a plate’ is overused, but this Porto delicacy fits the bill. Not only that, but it is the only entry on the list which classes as a sandwich even though you tend to eat it with cutlery. This is purely because you can pick it up with your hands, but you just shouldn’t. Bread-ham-steak-sausage-cheese-bread. So far, so sandwich. Then more cheese on top. Then a fried egg. Then tomato and beer sauce. Then the slow march to an early grave.

Fried chicken between two waffles

Sure, it counts, but you’re trying too hard.

Pizza

It’s got bread, it’s got cheese, it’s sometimes got meat, but it’s not a sandwich. Why? The stuff you put on a pizza is called a topping and not a filling for a reason. You might try to argue that it counts as a sandwich if you fold it over, but no – you’re not making a sandwich, you’re just ruining a pizza.

Calzone

Still no – see the aforementioned ‘eat with your hands’ rule.

Farcita

The only way anything resembling a pizza can join the sandwich club. Not to be confused with the club sandwich. As an aside, I tried a farcita (or stuffed pizza) from Café Sbarro at JFK airport in around 2012 and it might be the most American food I’ve ever eaten. The sort of thing so greasy it could somehow turn the air more see-through, let alone any nearby surfaces. But yes, this is both a sandwich and a pizza at once – the great thing about this is you don’t even have to choose!

Bao

If you’ve never had a bao, it’s a steamed bun which basically acts as a pocket for meat or veggies or – if you’re being adventurous – both. Gets extra points for being open enough to make it easy to drizzle on sauce, but compact enough that the fillings stay in their place. Not just a sandwich, but one of the best.

Crêpe

Come on, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Not a sandwich, and stop trying to reverse-engineer your lunch so it qualifies. Just get a bacon roll for breakfast tomorrow and move on with your life.

There we have it – a definitive breakdown of what counts as a sandwich and what does not. Got any queries with the above? I can only apologise for forcing you to confront your bad opinions.