Sandwich Theory

I have a theory of sandwiches, which runs as follows: they are all about the bread.

...all about the bread.  Last Supper by Vicente Juan Macip

…all about the bread.
Last Supper by Vicente Juan Macip

Put what you want in a sandwich, cram it full of chicken and mayo and ham and mustard and salad and all the rest, and they will still only be good if the bread is good; and with good bread, you could do much worse than a bit of ham and mustard.

There are exceptions. I used to work near the only sandwich shop in Britain that featured in the Egon Ronay guide. It was called Onion, and was on Sicilian Avenue in London. There would be queues out the door at lunchtime, and the bread was nothing special, sliced granary for the most part, if I recall. But they were the fattest sandwiches imaginable, and delicious. And it is also true that a bacon sandwich, which is the greatest sandwich, will be very happy with a bit of white-sliced.

But I hold to my position. Bread is like edible structure. Too thick or too thin, too crumbly, too tough, worst of all too stale, and it will not work; but get something crusty and doughy, something with a few seeds perhaps, and it really doesn’t matter what you pull out of the fridge.

I sometimes feel the same about language. Structure is meaning. I have been coaching a group of Chinese students for a debate this week, and am reminded, one way or another, that the essence of good oratory is good clear structure. You need to know where you are, listening to a speech, and where the speech is going. It is the same with a presentation. It doesn’t matter how interesting the content: if you do not know where you are the whole reasoned edifice will collapse.

And I suppose it is true to some extent of all discursive spoken and written language. If I can read or follow the structure I can anticipate the argument, override the lapses in accuracy, correct for mispronunciation. I can get a grip. Without the structure (logical, temporal, etc.) the rational sandwich of spoken utterance, so to speak, will implode to a globule of inchoate matter.

Which is not to disparage the messy sandwich. But perhaps that is for another post.

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