Pizza Is a Sandwich
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Pizza Is a Sandwich

The truth will set you free.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul admonishes the nascent church that "when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." As with the saving power of Christ, so too with sandwiches: the truth may be unsettling, but in the end it will set us free.

Pizza is a sandwich. Pizza is the world's most popular hot open-faced sandwich.


It's a scandalous idea for a scandalous time. But there is a method behind this mad declaration and I truly believe that if you follow the chain of reasoning you will liberate your mind from all false consciousness.

This is not an intellectual journey for the faint of heart.

Sandwich Theory has historically been more ideology than science and to transition from darkness to light is an inevitably painful process (brilliantly exemplified in the ten-minute alleyway fight scene in John Carpenter's They Live when Nada attempts to force Frank to wear sunglasses). But enlightenment demands a ruthless criticism of everything that exists, ruthless in the sense of fearing neither the powers that would stop our inquiry nor the terrifying conclusions we may uncover.

Jeb Lund's groundbreaking 2014 meditation on sandwich ontology in The Guardian has already established that a hot dog is unquestionably a sandwich—as is a taco, and all wraps. Likewise, the following chart making the rounds on social media highlights a rough map of sandwich schools of thought, which is useful as a starting place for discussion.

But we are not here to play games. We are here to establish a scientific method of sandwich classification. And, just as Marx observed in the introduction to the Grundrisse that "human anatomy holds the key to the anatomy of the ape," so too I believe that pizza holds the key to the taxonomy of the sandwich.


After three consecutive days of heated group deliberation on Twitter, it is possible to outline the basic principles of sandwich-ness. We must start at the beginning. What is a sandwich? At its most fundamental, a sandwich must have a bread base. Separate slices of bread, bread that has been cut down the middle but not separated, and wraps are all acceptable.

Sandwiches should also be primarily savoury. Sweet ingredients may be used, but the flavour profile of the sandwich should ultimately be predominantly savoury. Similarly, a sandwich must function as a meal. The ideal sandwich should be a nutritionally complete assemblage of complex carbs, vegetables, protein, and fat, but obviously this is not mandatory. But it rules out dessert sandwiches, so while ice cream sandwiches, pop tarts, and the like pay homage to the essential genius of the sandwich form, they are novelties—not true sandwiches. So-called "Radical Sandwich Anarchy" is culinary nihilism.

So far, so good. There is an obvious and perhaps ultimately intractable disagreement between partisans of the open-faced sandwich and reactionaries who would disqualify them for inclusion as true sandwiches. Obviously the ideal sandwich is one that can be eaten solely with hands but I don't think utensils, as distasteful as they are, necessarily disqualify something as a sandwich (e.g. the hot turkey sandwich, in either its closed or open-faced varieties). This dispute can only be settled on the streets.


As a believer that open-faced sandwiches are sandwiches, the logical conclusion is that pizza fits all of the basic sandwich criteria outlined above.

But even many friends of the open-faced sandwich are loathe to accept the pizza because, at this stage of development, the idea that "pizza is a sandwich" still feels like an affront to God. Left here, it also opens the door for "beef wellington is a sandwich" and "turkey pot pie is a sandwich," which are deeply troubling propositions and represent a threatening breakdown of the very category of sandwiches and, potentially, the fracturing of all human reason.

So our rules had to be further refined. When we say that a sandwich must include a bread base, we mean specifically that it cannot be a pastry. The nature and constitution of the base dough is the point of demarcation. Pizza dough is a type of bread dough, therefore pizza is technically an open-faced sandwich and not an open-faced savoury pie. Beef wellington cannot be a sandwich and Satan's power here is thwarted.

It may be objected that, unlike other sandwiches, raw pizza dough is often baked with the toppings on, which may problematize the concept. But this is not universal (pre-baked pizza crusts are common, as are pizzas made using other bread bases, eg. pita pizzas), and this in fact helped recapitulate that the constitution of the dough is what matters in sandwich classification, not the method of preparation, which may vary wildly.


There was some brief concern that the pastry rule might disqualify the Croissanwich, which is obviously a sandwich. But it was established that a) a croissant is actually a type of yeast bread, and b) even if it wasn't, there is no reason that two pastries, or a pastry cut in two, or a pastry that has been cut down the middle but not separated, could not be used as a sandwich base as long as the complete unit itself was primarily savoury. Donut sandwiches are acceptable. You could also hypothetically make a sandwich out of two meat pies, although it is not recommended.

There is also the problem of the KFC Double Down, which is advertised as a "sandwich" where two pieces of fried chicken serve as the "bread." Although it has the structure of a sandwich and the chicken is breaded, the batter does not qualitatively alter the chicken's status from "meat" to "bread." To allow for the Double Down would open the door to all manner of nonsense and destroy the integrity of the sandwich concept. We must state emphatically that the Double Down is not a true sandwich.

(We make no claims about what constitutes a "good" sandwich; only what can taxonomically be classified as part of the sandwich family. Going beyond structural components and into the realm of subjective taste is the road to madness.)

Detractors have regularly mocked our rigorous method of inquiry. Heretics and jesters have suggested that things like shish kebab or sushi or chairs or clocks or beers are sandwiches, because they misunderstand liberation from false dogma as nihilism. The bounds of what constitutes a sandwich are indeed wide but they are also rigid and indomitable. Corndogs are not sandwiches (they are fritters) and neither are samosas (they are a type of dumpling). And with all due respect to Sam Kriss, his contention that "a single slice of bread is a sandwich" is a postmodern decadence that tends towards ruin.


This is not the final word on sandwich theory, of course. We focused exclusively on taxonomy. But the genealogy of the sandwich is a closely related area of study that has barely been scratched. It is widely known that the classical sandwich stems from the Earl of Sandwich, who consumed many at his work desk overseeing Britain's colonial navy, but it would have actually been first constructed by his servant. The history of the sandwich itself is thus intimately bound up with imperialism and class oppression, which makes its subsequent evolution into the quintessential proletarian food all the more fascinating. I am confident that a genealogy of the sandwich will confirm Marx and Engels' declaration that what the ruling class produces is, above all, its own gravediggers.

Accepting that pizza is a sandwich does not mean the end of order. Quite the contrary. Straight is the path and narrow is the gate as far as sandwiches are concerned. But beyond that narrow gate we have here delimited, the possibilities are boundless. When you embrace sandwich poststructuralism, you embrace that the human world is governed by order but is also radically malleable to the collective, reasoned will of its inhabitants.

To recognize that pizza is a sandwich is to recognize that utopia is possible. To quote the Old Master, "once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward. For there you have been, and there you will long to return."


Also, a chef agreed with us.


With files from Jeremy Rumbolt, David Maher, @mattfromnl, Roger Andrews, Dean Franey, @RobertJ_NL, Jonathan Richler, Garrett Barry, Sarah McBreairty, Jon Keefe, John Riche, and John Nick Jeddore.

Follow Drew Brown on Twitter.