Wikipedia is like most of the internet—good if you want to find out something you will never need to know, terrible if you really need to make sure something is true, and 99 percent crap. But that one percent that isn’t crap is shockingly good, and when you stumble across a worthwhile page you feel good for the future of technology, knowledge accumulation, and the prospects of humanity itself. Coming across such a page won’t just brighten up your day, it will make you understand, for a while at least, that though our time on this planet is limited, there is so much joy to be squeezed out of it, so much wonder to discover and share and create, that we should be grateful—to God, the universe, whatever—that we are alive where and when we are, or simply that we are alive at all. That’s what I feel, anyway, when I visit Wikipedia’s List of Sandwiches, which I periodically do whenever I’m feeling down. I almost always learn something, and I almost always end up giggling like an idiot at my desk before—what else?—going off to make a sandwich. These are the things I have learned from that page so far:
The English are fucking disgusting Wikipedia helpfully lists the country of origin for each sandwich, and the ones credited to the United Kingdom give a terrifying glimpse into the psyche of that spice-bereft nation. It’s a stereotype, sure, but the sandwiches that aren’t of the “just one food item lazily placed between two slices of bread” variety (baked bean, bacon, jam, cucumber, and chip butty [a French fry sandwich, which sounds incredibly dull]) are creations you might have thought of when you were four years old only to immediately realize, no, that’s gross. Here’s a “crisp” sandwich that contains chips, peanut butter, and pickles. Less vile but more boring is the tea sandwich, which is basically just white bread smeared with mayo and butter. The most palatable sandwich on the list belonging to the UK is the “ploughman’s lunch,” which was a marketing ploy by cheese manufacturers—it’s basically cheese and relish and bread and sometimes apples or whatever on a plate, and the main point of it seems to be that you get some beer with it. There’s even a sandwich name on the Wiki page that is a joke riffing on British Railway’s terrible sandwiches, proving that once again the British are much better at making droll comments about their miserable lives than they are at improving said lives.
Germans don’t really understand sandwiches The wonderful, liberating things about the sandwich as a genre is that you can fit anything—anything—between two slices of bread. The Chivito is a sandwich that features filet mignon, mayo, olives, mozzarella, tomatoes, and sometimes also bacon, eggs, and ham. (It is, deservedly, the national dish of Uruguay.) Compare that cultural achievement with German sandwiches such as the Fischbrötchen (fish, onions) and the Wurstbrot (meat, and meat only, on a roll). I would scold Germans for having a lack of imagination, but they did produce the Toast Hawaii, a bizarre creation that combines melted cheese, pineapple, and a maraschino cherry. Here another country lives up to its stereotype—the German sandwich is either economical to the point of severity, or completely fucking bonkers.
Elvis was the Caligula of sandwiches A Fool’s Gold Loaf is a warmed, hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with peanut butter, jelly, and a pound of bacon. (Stop for a second to consider that, but don’t think about it for too long. Let the fact of its existence slide past you like a trash barge floating gently down a river.) Elvis loved them so much that on February 1, 1976, while he was hanging out with a couple cops in Memphis, he decided to fly to Denver in the middle of the night on his private jet. Once they arrived at the Denver airport, they hung out in a hanger with the plane’s pilots eating 22 of these sandwiches and drinking Perrier and champagne over the course of three hours. As one Wikipedia editor on the talk page said, “This article is a good example of the wretched excesses of the man, which observers were well aware of during his life.” As another, more pragmatic editor added, “How did it never occur to Elvis et al that the sandwich was quite simple and could be produced locally?” While the Wikipedians are technically correct—probably, for them, the best kind of correct—something tells me they will never know the unique, delicate joy of sitting in an airplane hanger in Denver bloated and drunk at three in the morning, waiting for their private jet to refuel. (A more human-sized version of the Fool’s Gold Loaf is named after Elvis.)
New sandwiches are appearing all the time, and they are terrifying The existence of the Luther Burger (a hamburger with donuts instead of buns) and the hamdog (a hot dog inside a hamburger, which is then deep-fried and topped with chili, fries, and a fried egg) is less surprising than the fact that they came from the same Atlanta restaurant and were invented by the same guy, Chandler Goff. He closed his old place (Mulligan’s) to open a new restaurant in Knoxville, and took the Luther Burger with him, but not the hamdog (his new place is “more of an adult concept,” according to him). The hamdog migrated and evolved, however, and you can find it, in slightly modified form at Jimmy’s Food and Drink (good name, Jimmy) in Minnesota. If Elvis were alive, he’d be chartering a plane.
There are less than 150 kinds of sandwiches in the world There are 149.