I decided to set a challenge to find the best sandwich in my current city of Edmonton. This is no small task, as it turns out. There are a lot of sandwiches out there. I decided to do this randomly at about 3am one night (this is what happens when you are hungry in the middle of the night), and the hangover is that now I have to follow through.
The following day I bounded off optimistically into the uncertainty of the Edmonton food scene and took the suggestions of a mysterious fellow on Twitter named "Baconhound" who appears to have a nose for this sort of thing. I picked up my first sandwich and ate it without even considering what really makes a great sandwich (review coming soon). This is a mistake when seeking to find the best of something, and so now forming an idea of "greatness" in a sandwich is the unenviable task with which I find myself.
So to the question then... what makes a great sandwich? I'm not going to research others opinions on this (that sounds far too much like it would make sense, which means it must be dangerous) and instead I'll construct my own rubric for all of the sandwiches to come (and there will be many).
To this, perhaps I am lucky that I have already started on a few sandwiches without a preceding criteria on which to judge their excellence. Much like innovation in a market often comes from an outsider, this has led me to avoid preconceived notions and form properly judgmental ones on my own.
So what do I think makes a great sandwich? Well: consistency, cohesion, texture, and flavour. Is that it? Well it sounds mighty academic. Perhaps I am in trouble after all. Let's see what follows...
In my opinion, a sandwich thrives on consistency. I may be alone in this, but I like a sandwich to taste very similar on every single bite. I don't want to be surprised halfway by a sudden change from what was working the last time I chomped down. A little variation is okay and gives a taste of the ingredients in slightly different combinations, but I don't want one bite to be all sauce and the next to be all bread.
As I found with my experiment today with a torta, cohesion is very important in a sandwich. I don't want my sandwich falling apart on me halfway through, scraping the ingredients off the plate. If I wanted that, I would have ordered the ingredients separately.
A surprising number of things have to go right for a sandwich to maintain proper cohesion. Ingredients have to be properly placed, the bread can't get too soggy, and everything has to fit nicely on the bread. I respect cohesion in a sandwich. it takes care, maybe more than any other factor
I find texture to be another important factor in a sandwich. it can't be too bready, or soggy, or greasy. Ingredients need to be installed in the proper order to maximize satisfaction, and it needs to go together shortly before it is consumed so the ingredients don't mingle too freely and leave things in disarray. The ingredients should mingle, but not meld.
Yeah, that's right, with a "u". Welcome to Canada. Come for the open skies, stay for the free healthcare. Flavour might be the single most important part oaf a sandwich, but it is nothing without the rest of this list. I don't think that the flavour of a sandwich should attack your mouth, but it should emerge from all of the properties of the sandwich, and you should be able to tell when an ingredient is missing from that list bite (see consistency). There are a lot of ways to get flavour across in a sandwich, but I have seen some better than others.
So that's my rather high-minded list of attributes on which I'll be judging sandwiches. Did I miss anything? What would you judge a sandwich on? Let me know. Seriously, I'm suspiciously interested in what you have to say. Reviews soon. Come join me on this adventure.
- Mr. S