The Psychology of Sandwiches – and a Recipe for a Vegetarian BLT

Let’s talk about the sandwich for a second. More specifically, let’s get into the situational factors that often surround sandwich-eating. Don’t ask me where I came up with this idea, we are just going to roll with it. Strange thoughts come into my head when I am running and brainstorming about future blog posts, ok? Why not talk about the psychology of the sandwich? I sure bet it’s not anything you have thought of before and that’s the whole idea here, to get people thinking!
Conditions I hypothesize are most conducive to sandwich eating:
– Eating on the go. Sandwiches provide a quick meal in an easy, handheld package. There is one place that has really capitalized on this. It starts in “sub” and ends in “way”. You will probably know what I am talking about.
– This kind of goes along with the “eating on the go” condition, but anytime meals need to be made and packed in advance, sandwiches always seem to be option #1. Do you ever hear someone say, “oh hold on one second, I just need to sear off this lovely hunk of filet mignon so I can pack it for lunch tomorrow”? If you do, you sure hang out with a classy crowd. Picnics, school lunches, hiking or ski snacks – they always include a sandwich or two.
– Being in a rush. Sandwiches can be made in 5 minutes or less, so if you are running late, need to be out the door ASAP but still want food, sandwiches to the rescue.
– Casual dining atmospheres. Typically you order a sandwich at a bar or grill. The only fancy sandwich application I can think of off the top of my head would be having tea with the Queen. But do slices of cucumber sandwiched between tasteless (and crustless) white bread really count as a sandwich? I thought not.
– Not wanting to cook or eat but knowing that you should probably put something in your body. Or not having anything better to make because there is no food in the house. I almost feel sorry for the PB and J sandwich. How often do you actually plan ahead, and look forward to making something like that for dinner? Or is it more of a “why don’t we have any food? I guess my only option is to slather some peanut butter all over this incredibly appetizing, stale bread….yum”?

Vegetarian BLT - avocado, arugula and tomato sandwich

Conditions that are probably not so conducive to sandwich eating:
– Celebrations. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, promotions, etc. Let’s go out for a glass of champagne and a sandwich to mark the occasion, why don’t we? What a popular phrase.
– Fancy dining atmospheres. When a menu is filled with entrees like steak, a seared duck breast and maybe a roast game hen (or chicken for those less adventurous diners), the last thing you are going to find is a sandwich. Eating with your hands is generally unacceptable in such situations. Meat juices dripping down your arms and onto your nice clothes are probably frowned upon.
– Not having any bread on hand. No-brainer perhaps but I thought it was worth pointing out.
– Being a celiac. Sure you can buy gluten-free bread but does anyone really want to eat it? Gluten is what makes bread delicious so until they find a near exact replicate to gluten (without the gluten) GF bread is something you should probably stay away from.
– Trying to impress someone. Say you are going to cook for your significant other for the first time. What’s the first thing on the menu that comes to mind? I’m pretty confident when I say that it is probably not a sandwich.

So that’s just a list that I compiled using my own experiences but going backing and reading through all the points it’s kind of astounding. At what point did we decide to put so many rules into place regarding what is acceptable to eat in certain situations?? Well the thing is, we never officially did. There’s no “Sandwich Eaters Manifesto” to go by (or at least I don’t think there is….).

Instead, our own situational experiences have taught us what is “acceptable” and what is not. We then integrate all of that information and use it whenever we might be faced with the question, “is it ok to eat a sandwich right now?” Keep in mind that this is a totally unconscious process.

It’s kind of like going to the grocery store. I’m sure that no one has ever taught you how to go up and down the aisles to check off the things on your list, then push your cart over to the check-out where you know that a cashier will be waiting to scan everything through and eventually ask you to pay for it. But you’ve done it enough times that you just know what to do. Thanks brain, you information integrator, you.

Vegetarian BLT - avocado, arugula and tomato sandwich
So I guess the most important question regarding all of this is really, why do we care? Well first off, I’ll say that there are probably tons of consumer psychologists hired by restaurants around the globe trying to decipher the contextual factors of eating in order to increase profits. But why, as an individual do you care?
Maybe, you don’t, and that is perfectly ok. On the other hand, maybe you want to challenge all of these implicit norms that we have, whether they are related to food or not. I for one would love to be able to go to a fancy restaurant and have them make me the most elegant and deliciously mind-blowing sandwich I have ever had in my life. But the only way to change the options available to us is to change the norms. And the only way to change our norms is to change the way we behave on a regular basis.
And you thought you were just going to get a mindless post on how to make vegetarian BLT sandwiches.
Vegetarian BLT - avocado, arugula and tomato sandwich - assembly
Fun fact:
There is actually a psychological construct called “The Sandwich Approach”. Essentially it is a way to give someone constructive criticism without hurting their feelings. You “sandwich” your criticism in between a positive introductory statement and a positive concluding statement. Here’s an example:
“Mallory, I really love this sandwich that you made”
“But it could have used a bit more mayo, it’s a little dry”
“All of the other flavours are really delicious though”
Man, today is all about learning, isn’t it?!
sliced avocado
Avocado, Arugula and Tomato Sandwiches (Vegetarian BLT)
Serves 2
4 slices of bread (I like grainy stuff but use whatever you prefer)
1 ripe avocado, sliced thinly
1 tomato, sliced thinly
2 handfuls of arugula
balsamic mayonnaise, see recipe below
I’m sure you can figure out how to assemble a sandwich, but just in case, here’s how I did it. Toast your bread (in a toaster rather than a pan). Slather each side with a generous spoonful of balsamic mayonnaise, homemade nonetheless. Layer on a couple slices of tomato, a handful of arugula and as many slices of avocado as you can possible fit. Close it up, slice it (diagonally of course) and eat!
Vegetarian BLT - avocado, arugula and tomato sandwich - assembly
Balsamic Mayonnaise
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or other acid of your choice; lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar all work here)
roughly 1 cup of a neutral flavoured oil, such as canola or light olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Making your own mayonnaise may actually take less time that wrestling with a new jar of the store bought stuff, by the time you twist off the lid and peel back the annoying tin-foily seal.
Here we go, first whisk together the egg yolk, mustard and vinegar. Then start SLOWLY drizzling in the oil, one drop at a time at first, whisking diligently. The biggest problem with mayonnaise is that it is an emulsification of oil and vinegar (2 ingredients that don’t like each other very much) so in order to combine them into a thick, creamy sauce you need to pour the oil slowly and whisk constantly to prevent it from splitting. As you go you will notice it getting thicker and thicker. At this point you are past the point of it splitting so you can get a little crazier with the oil. Once it reaches the thickness of your choice stop and season with salt and pepper to taste. There you have it, mayo from scratch.
If it does split on you (I could describe this, but it’s pretty obvious, you’ll know) don’t freak out, it can be fixed! Don’t throw it out. Just go get yourself another egg, some more oil and another splash of vinegar. Whisk these together, same as you did before. But instead of adding fresh oil, slowly drizzle in your split mayonnaise. Perhaps go a bit slower this time so you don’t have the same problem happen again. Problem solved!
homemade balsamic mayonnaise
Vegetarian BLT - avocado, arugula and tomato sandwich - assembly
Vegetarian BLT - avocado, arugula and tomato sandwich

One thought on “The Psychology of Sandwiches – and a Recipe for a Vegetarian BLT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *