The International Sandwich Hall of Fame

For a long time, because these are the kinds of things I think and worry about, I’ve wondered what would be enshrined at a hall of fame for sandwiches. And, on a long drive back from vacation following the consumption of several cheese steaks, I had some time to nail it down.

First, the criteria for candidacy:

The inductee must be a sandwich. It must involve bread with a filling. This seems obvious, but with the growth of paleo, gluten-free diets, sandwich shops selling wraps, and other trends, it’s important to be explicit. Sandwiches that use rolls or other forms of bread instead of sliced bread and open-faced sandwiches that use a single slice of bread will be considered for inclusion. “Flat bread,” the term some restaurants seem to be adopting because they don’t want to say they serve pizza, is not a sandwich.

The inductee must be an all-time-great. No second-tier, or fad sandwiches will be inducted. When looking down the list of inductees, you should see a list of sandwiches that are a who’s who of the world’s sandwiches.

The inductee should have cultural significance. While we consider the sandwich’s taste, we’re not interested in amazing-tasting sandwiches that no one has ever heard of or eaten. Regional specialties are eligible (and, often, strong candidates).

The inductee must be a canonical version of the sandwich, though some variations are acceptable.  While many sandwiches are so good that they’ve spawned their own variations, the considered sandwich must be a canonical version, not a entire class of sandwiches. This, perhaps, the hardest part to lay out, but generally means that the composition of the sandwich should be understood by its name. So while hoagies or po’ boys might be mighty fine sandwiches, they are, in the end, platforms that require some explanation; you can’t simply walk into a sandwich shop, order “a hoagie” and know what exactly you’ll get. A cheeseburger, while there exist infinite variations, is understood to be a bun, a beef patty and melted cheese. This is similar how the martini might be inducted into a cocktail hall of fame. Leaving aside the gin verses vodka debate, the drink would be inducted as a whole, and a martini garnished with a twist would not be inducted separately from a martini garnished with olive. The hall is not interested in defining the One True Version of a sandwich, but, rather, the acceptable parameters for a sandwich with a specific name.

And now, the inaugural class of the International Sandwich Hall of Fame:

Reuben: rye bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, thousand island or Russian dressing

Cheese steak: Italian roll; thinly sliced beef; white American, provolone or Cheez Whiz; fried onions are optional, though encouraged

BLT: bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise

Peanut Butter and Jelly: smooth or crunchy peanut butter, strawberry or grape jelly, white or wheat sandwich bread

Cheeseburger: bun; beef patty; Cheddar or American cheese; ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle are optional

What would you add?

7 thoughts on “The International Sandwich Hall of Fame

  1. If this is truly an international hall of fame, I feel you have to include falafel in the inaugural class.

    One sandwich I started thinking about is the grilled cheese. Surely this sandwich is on the same level as those you have listed. But, is the grilled cheese a sandwich, or a class of sandwich? While I like my grilled cheese made with cheddar, many people would swear by american cheese. This made me start to think of the grilled cheese sandwich as just a variation on a cheese sandwich, and a cheese sandwich isn’t really a specific sandwich, it’s just a sandwich, with cheese.

  2. Falafel should have a place, I agree.

    I struggled with the same thing with grilled cheese. But if we’re including PB&J (and I think we have to), we should probably included grilled cheese (my wife argued for it). It’s a little slipperier than a cheeseburger, but more defined that my hoagie example. So what’s the canonical grilled cheese?

  3. I’m with Laura, Grilled cheese should be included. It’s iconic. The canonical sandwich would be white bread (probably should include wheat as well, same as PB&J), and American cheese. Many, many variations now exist, but what kid didn’t grow up with grilled cheese sandwiches?

    Also, a point of order on your BLT description. Should toasted bread be part of the canonical description? Or is that not a universal deal for everybody?

  4. White bread and American is the most iconic grilled cheese formula, but that popularity is directly related to the popularity of Wonder Bread and Kraft singles. Surely you wouldn’t want that combination in any hall of fame.

    I understand the desire to be specific, but grilled cheese’s versatility is constituent of its greatness.

  5. Hm. The gyro seems an obvious choice for the Hall of Fame.

    Also, though there may be a purist camp which would deny it for its commercial pedigree, and it may not fit the envisioned spirit of the Hall of Fame, the Big Mac seems to fit the criteria.

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