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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

NEWS FLASH: Burritos are not sandwiches!

It was hard to decide a category in which to place this news flash. I first thought about the Legal section, since it was all about the lawsuit over the burrito's status as a sandwich or not a sandwich - but then I thought about the heart of the matter: food logic.

The whole debate about burritos and sandwiches all started when a Panera store (of a huge franchise based in St. Louis with stores across the nation) in the White City Shopping Center added a clause in its lease with the shopping center that there would not be another sandwich shop allowed to rent space while Panera is there. Then along came the Qdoba Mexican Grill, which led to Panera invoking that clause to prevent the new store from opening, and challenging its right to even rent space in the shopping center.

And they went to court, hearing testimony from Webster's Dictionary, a chef and a former high-ranking federal agriculture official.

Verdict: Burritos are not sandwiches.

The court heard a lot of testimony on the subject. Panera claimed that a flour tortilla is a bread, and a food product with bread and filling is a sandwich. The judge wound up ruling that "a sandwich is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans." Well, the actual ruling took up eight pages, but that was the bread and butter of the decision.

Bread and butter: Sandwich or No Sandwich?

In fact, the whole difference between Panera's self-serving broad definition of a sandwich being any bread/grain product and a filling, versus the court's ruling about sandwiches following more of the dictionary definition of two individual pieces of leavened bread and usually containing meat, cheese or another savory mixture - it raises a few other questions.

Let's think of things Panera would think are sandwiches that a court (and probably a nutritional anthropologist) would disagree with!

Calzone - one slab of pizza dough, folded over, and containing pizza sauce, cheese, and sometimes meats.
Pizza Puff - the same, but usually fried rather than baked.
Burrito - the reigning champion of "Not a Sandwich"
Taco - also only one tortilla, folded over
Quesadilla - questionable, as more traditional methods say one tortilla folded over, but I have cooked several times with two tortillas. This could be a sandwich, unless leavening comes into play, in which case my tortilla might still be safe from sandwichdom.
Ravioli - A bread product with a meat/cheese filling, but uses only one piece of dough.
Eggroll - also only one piece of dough.
Pierogi - also only one piece of dough.
Gyro - one piece of flatbread, which isn't really that flat

Now let's take on a few questionable items, and I'll let you help decide as you pretend to be a high-powered Superior Court judge who is stuck handling cases of "What is a Sandwich?"

"Sandwich" or "No Sandwich"?

S'mores - two pieces of bread-type food, filling that is usually not meaty or cheesy.

Chicago-Style Stuffed Pizza - a pizza that has both a bottom crust and a top crust, obviously with a pizza filling in the middle.

Ritz Bits Sandwiches (with cheese or peanut butter) - two separate crackers, filling of cheesy/savory nature. Is the term "sandwich" in the title an admission of guilt? Does this affect the law itself?

Nachos - another Mexican dish, comprised of MORE THAN ONE piece of bread-product, with cheese in-between as a "filling". Could Panera cry "sandwich" over this culinary treat after its relative, the burrito, has walked away clean?

Lasagna - the meaty cheesy filling is placed between separate layers of noodles. Does a sandwich have to be something hand-held, as it was supposedly originally created by the Earl of Sandwich to hold meaty food in his hand while playing cards?

Oreos - Two cookies, including a filling. While Oreos are the brand-name misnomer given to lots of non-Oreo cookies (like Band-aids are misnomered for adhesive bandages and Kleenex are for tissues), the category of cookie is known as "sandwich cookies" by the industry. Admission of guilt or simple racial profiling and stereotyping as Sandwich?

Pie - a classic two-breaded filled food item! While meat pies are not as common as the fruity variety, and more and more cream-based pies have no top shell - classic pie chefs are aware that the standard pie would make an excellent example of a possible Sandwich candidate.

You decide. You rule.

Sandwich? No Sandwich?

Have fun being judge and jury, and feel free to bring any other food items to the courtroom to be judged as you see fit!

(You know, this might be a stupidly-funny skit for SNL or MadTV of something. A gameshow/courtshow titled "Sandwich or No Sandwich?" and featuring a really fat judge who "knows about sandwiches". Hell, if "Extreme Akim" could be a judge on that outrageous debacle of a court show, "Eye for an Eye", and have a disclaimer in the credits to let viewers know that "Extreme Akim is not a judge. Rulings are not final or legally binding." - why couldn't THIS show fly?)

This is my claim on the whole idea. Patent Pending! Copyright Pending! Trademark Pending! Bwaaarg!!!

What foods would you bring to "Sandwich or No Sandwich"? Leave a comment and let me know!

And then Digg this article!

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