I’ve been traveling more than not since the start of 2007. By noon on most days, I’ve marvelled at prepackaged sandwiches. Their similarity within a geographic area, not their variety, is striking. Large slabs of cheese tend to define "vegetarian" options (as if cheese were a vegetable!). Humbly, I admit, living on the west coast, the further east I’ve gone the more interesting the selections I’ve found.
London has fierce competition for lunchtime business: at least four ever-present chains offer multiple varieties of sandwiches using free range eggs, local cheeses (!), and dark green leafy salad greens such as arugola ("rocket" in British English). Many products are organic including the whole wheat bread slices. Grilled panini, hot baguettes and cornish pasties offer warm options.
New York, with its deli tradition, offers pastrami as well as chicken, but London-chain sandwiches, California-style wraps, and (ugh!) even pizza have the same fillings. Tomatoes, even in winter, are the only common vegetable.
In California, our variety is surprisingly unrealized. Cheddar, American or provolone? Ham or turkey? Lettuce and tomato on top? We have more choices of bread to encase our _____ and _____ than we have developed imaginative fillings. Grilled sweet potato and baby spinach? Cranberry relish and goat cheese? Cilantro or pumpkin seed pesto? With the bounty from local farms, why not treat ourselves? Sure, we have burritos and noodle bowls, but nothing beats the ease (and usually the price) of a sandwich. And when craft is applied to making a really good one, nothing beats the flavor either.
– Helene S. York, Director, Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation