The cartoony side-scroller video game Castle Crashers has, obviously, several upgrades. Magic, weapons, mounts, familiars- all the kinds of things that you’d expect to find in a fantasy video game. However, the most powerful item in the game has nothing to do with magic, maces, or fantasy creatures. The item in Castle Crashers that transforms your 2D knights into hulked-out monstrosities is none other than a humble sandwich. After partaking of meat, cheese, veggies and bread the tiny characters transform into massive machines of badass destruction, able to slam through enemies and obstacles with quickness and ease.
This is entirely appropriate, as sandwiches are magical. They are amazing, fantastic, wonderful creations, and they don’t get the respect they deserve. A good sandwich is every bit the amazing food-based experience as anything else that is given the term “fine dining.”
Sandwiches, to put it simply, are not simple, though we think of them as such. They are, in fact, a collection of several variables, all of which could go very wrong or very right. They are bread, meat, vegetables, cheese, condiments, and sundry other edibles. They are made of not one, not two, and oftentimes not just three items. And a sandwich must get all of those things right if it wishes to succeed.
For example, I got a bratwurst from a food cart that shall go unnamed. The meat itself was excellent. Very excellent, actually. The toppings were all very good- an amalgamation of onions, garlic, and mustard. The tart and carmelized toppings mingled pleasingly with the meat. The bun, though? The bun was awful. It was the kind of sad, bland bun that one would find wrapped in clear plastic at Safeway. It was stunning in its unremarkableness, and utterly spoiled the experience. The meat and veggies and mustard were all good, but that single stumble sank the whole enterprise.
By contrast, I recently had a banh mi at Double Dragon that expertly jumped through each and every hoop. The meat was cooked just right, and the shredded vegetables and hot sauce cooperated excellently with the pork belly. The bread had a certain crunch to it that was toasty without being too crumbly, and the whole thing was moist but not to the point of sloppiness. On every metric, the sandwich succeeded, and finished it with a feeling of satisfaction and admiration.
Sandwiches are not to be dismissed. They are not to be scoffed at or derided as mere bar or deli fare. Sandwiches can instantly satisfy one’s craving for carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and sundry flavor notes. Respect the sandwich. Admire the sandwich. Love the sandwich. Within it lies skill and beauty, a layered concoction greater than the sum of its parts, each one an edible example of e pluribus unum.