Listen up people: a burrito, though it looks like a sandwich, sits in the hand like a sandwich, and sticks together like a sandwich, is not, i repeat, not a sandwich.
Now bear with me, I know this is confusing… just as I know this is old news for fellow foodish Bostonians who heard all about this last year. I can hear the collective do-we-need-to-hear-this-again already. But this all happened when I was but a pre-blogger, so late is better than never!
This was an important issue last November. Matters of mealtime vocabulary and sandwich self-identification were at stake. Sandwich experts were asked to weigh in with their opinions. Local fabulous chef, Chris Schlesinger, who conveniently had just opened a sandwich place in Cambridge, had this to say: a sandwich is European in origin and uses “two pieces of leavened bread” while a burrito is Mexican-specific, is normally served hot and rolled into an unleavened tortilla. The two cannot find common ground here, clearly.
But let’s see what food vocabulary guru Alan Davidson has to say in his Penguin Companion to Food… from page 829 under heading Sandwich he says “Sandwiches take so many forms in the modern world, including double- and triple-deckers, the open sandwiches typical of Scandinavia, … and legions of toasted sandwiches.” His tome (it weighs two pounds, I just checked) is notable for two things: there is no listing for Burrito but at least burrito is not mentioned under sandwiches. The mystery deepens.
I happen to think that a sandwich is anything that involves a bread product used to keep the fillings in one place. Under this gastronomic umbrella I include anything that might be found or easily eaten at a baseball game. That means the sausage/hot dog/bratwurst family is well represented as well as the burger and the cheese sandwich groups. And I’ll admit that under my definition, I’m not sold on the burrito is not a sandwich angle. But in the interest of respect for ethnic foods, I’ll let that lie.
I’ll end with a book suggestion for those who need more information on this hot topic and pictures of two of my favorite recent sandwiches (courtesey of Burgerville, Portland, OR, and Chez Dad, homeland of I smell food).