The Louisiana Territory is another Bay Area food truck, and their Po Boy is a fairly standard offering: Fried catfish, lettuce, tomatoes, special sauce. All of that is perfectly satisfactory, the fish is moist and the sauce, bearing a strong resemblance to tartar sauce, pairs nicely. It was a tasty number, and I want to be perfectly clear about that. This was tasty. Here’s what it wasn’t: A sandwich. Let us return briefly to August of 2009, and our review of the now-closed Hank’s Eats:
The idea of what is and is not a sandwich comes down to the obvious and the intent. The obvious is the precious few simple qualifications that must be met, namely bread on the top and the bottom and some other ingredient in the middle. The intent is what makes it a sandwich and what ends up disqualifying the Porky’s Revenge. In order to be a sandwich the intent must be for the food to be eaten aligned horizontally. It is in this that we find sandwiches in harmony with our mouths and indeed our larger selves. It is in this that we find each bite encompassing the sum total of the ingredients in the sandwich, all of them represented in their proper proportions. It is in this that a sandwich becomes a sandwich.
It might not be clear from the photo, but the bread for the Louisiana Territory’s Po Boy isn’t sliced horizontally. It isn’t sliced at all. The loaf is hollowed out to a thin crust, then filled with ingredients. Now, I’m going to get a bit pedantic here, and if other people aren’t willing to join me I hold no grudge. That said: Whether this is or isn’t a sandwich is not just an academic distinction. In filling a hollowed out roll, everything is to be mixed together. You construct a salad, then stuff that salad into a casing. A sandwich, as we all know, is constructed in layers. A big part of what matters is what I mentioned above, that each bite (ideally) contains the sum total of the sandwich. A great many sandwiches do not meet this ideal, but similar to serving a sandwich with a fork in it, to stuff a roll with a salad is to surrender without even making an attempt. The torta I had recently at Casita Chilanga didn’t feature a bit of everything in every bite, but it is intention that makes that an honest failure and this a sin. The mixture at Casita results from an abundance of starring ingredients and enthusiasm. Here you’ve just got catfish and friends, all thrown together, taking your chances. You surrender all control over the arranged presentation of ingredients. If that’s the choice an establishment makes that’s their business, I simply ask that they not sully the good name of sandwiches with the lackadaisical attitude.
I know this is silly thing to get worked up over but sandwich construction aside, I hate places that hollow out the rolls. My inner Rocky Mountain-Mid-Atlantic upbringing starts screaming, “They’re wasting perfectly good bread!”
At the end of each day some poor soul confronts a garbage bin full of soft, white bread, the flesh of countless rolls. Sighing, they gather the edges of the trash bag and quickly seal their sins away.
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