Mayo and Bread
A subsistence sandwich, strictly for survival. The foundational food of the penniless poet who must silence the Sturm und Drang of the stomach long enough to contemplate where his next check will come from. The staple sandwich of the sociopath who maintains an ascetic lifestyle, keeping only two ingredients in his refrigerator while scrapbooking thousands of photos of as-of-yet-unspoken-to neighbors. Also, the prized sandwich of the mother of 14 on food stamps.
When enough financial security has been achieved, meat can be slapped on top of what was previously a rudimentary meal. The newfound protein generates enough energy to stabilize and secure one’s lifestyle. Bologna is the sandwich for budget-conscious lower-class and lower-middle-class folks who can feed their children pseudomeat while saving time on meal prep and avoiding the high prices of cooking gas.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Once stability arrives, people naturally pine for the comfort and intimacy offered by relationships. Few things belong together like peanut butter and jelly, which, when placed face to face, meld like an almost sexual union of opposites. Sticky and sweet no longer compete, but instead congeal into a mortar that warms the roof of the mouth while plugging the gaps in the heart’s levee. The snack sandwich a giggling brother and sister share after Mom has cut off the crusts.
Social and familial bonding, though important foundations, can only take people so far. Enter the Reuben, which fuels esteem and self-worth with its layered, cornfed meats and melted cheeses. The sandwich sizzles on the grill like a Dionysian figure keeping his cool as he skates across Hades’ fiery lake. The Reuben is so confident that it sports sauerkraut without fear of reprisal from finicky eaters. The sandwich for self-composed delicatessen-goers who order and eat while selling stocks on cell-phone headsets and slipping business cards into the pockets of attractive people 20 years their junior.
When the needs provided by conventional sandwiches have all been satisfied, people begin to seek the whole loaf, which is ample enough to support a complex amalgam of ingredients, including layers of provolone, salami, and ham. Additionally, the muffuletta’s olive-salad spread, a mixture of 13 ingredients, unites and surrounds the meat and cheese like a salty oversoul. A product of America’s melting pot, the muffuletta is a global sandwich large enough to feed a table full of hungry immigrants who can set aside their differences and break bread in recognition of their common humanity. The muffuletta does not exist as a result of the stomach’s emptiness, but was born from the fullness found deep inside us all.