Monday, February 11, 2013

Rant: Sandwich Bread, Thin or Thick?


"The bread must be wafer-thin. It is nothing more than a vehicle to convey the filling to the stomach."
--The War & Colonel Warden by Gerald Pawle

Winston Churchill loved to eat and drink, and he possessed some strong opinions in that arena. In addition, Churchill used food and alcohol as a tool of diplomacy.

I have been reading Dinner with Churchill: Policy-Making at the Dinner Table by Cita Stelzer, a fascinating book that details how Churchill used dinner parties, picnics and other food & wine events to further diplomatic ends. The book also details some of his food and drink idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes, from his great love of Champagne to his sandwich preferences.

Churchill preferred very thin bread on his sandwiches, his focus much more on the fillings, such as roast beef.  Is there a perfect size for sandwich bread? Does it depend on the type, size and nature of the fillings? Or is it all a matter of preference? How does a restaurant decide on the proper size of the bread for their sandwiches?

Based on a quick and unscientific poll, people are divided and it seems it might be more a matter of preference. Some agree with Churchill that the fillings are most important and the bread should be very thin. I am in agreement with those who feel the type of bread is dictated more by the type of sandwich. For example, a grilled cheese sandwich, which might be thin on fillings, needs a thinner bread. Yet a thick cheeseburger needs a thicker bun but not too thick. There should be a proper ratio of filling to bread, and that ratio is somewhat a matter of preference. However, the size of the bread is only one factor and the texture of the bread is important too. A thin slice of a thick textured bread may work as well as a thicker slice of bread with a lighter texture.

Restaurants must find a way to please the vast majority of their customers with their bread to fillings ratio. That is probably a good reason why so many sub shops use a similar sized roll for their sandwiches. And it also probably why so many loaves of sliced bread have very similar sized slices. You can find thick and thin sliced breads, but they are more the exception than the norm. Some restaurants are more apt to take chances with their bread choices, which is riskier as they stand to alienate some sandwich lovers. For example, did they use too big of a roll for their hamburger? Or too little of a bun? Is their grilled cheese much more bread than cheese?

Do you prefer thin bread, like Churchill, or thicker breads? Does it depend on the type of sandwich?

3 comments:

Jason Phelps said...

For me it depends on the bread. Some breads are better thin vs. thick. The texture of the bread lends a dimension of its own to sandwiches for me so breads that are very chewy or dense have to be in balance just like softer breads can be.

How much, and what, you put between the slices is definitely a matter of personal preference!

Great Monday lead-off!

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Bread is like the car windows - if they're really clean, it makes the whole car look better. So I'm okay with varying sizes of bread, but it needs to be deent quality, fresh bread!

Joy Bee said...

I'm a bread person so I don't mind large slices of good bread, but I think a sandwich needs to be balanced. I'm always rearranging my sandwiches so I have better balance (everything in each bite). I make home made breads so I can cut them to the proper size for the task. This is an interesting question and I don't think there is any good answer. My preference is size the bread slices to the job, thick if there will be a lot of stuff in the sandwich, thin if less.