At Carlisi Bros. Deli in Moonachie, New Jersey, there is a sandwich counter. A bevy of cold cuts are available and customers choose how they’d like their sandwiches constructed. However, the glaring blind spot in this ritual–what often gets ignored and treated as merely an afterthought–is that the sandwiches themselves don’t get to choose what they want to be. They are assigned to a sandwich. And that is slowly beginning to change.
A movement to raise the public’s conscious of sandwich identity is gaining in popularity as sandwiches from all across the nation are speaking up. The discrimination of sandwiches that choose to become different sandwiches can often be aggressive. Sandwiches that identify as ham, for example, are often ridiculed for having some turkey in them, maybe even a slice or two of salami. With today’s changing social climate, though, the time has come for sandwiches, ham or otherwise, to have the freedom to choose their lifestyle.
Sandwich fluidity is not an entirely new concept. In the past, sandwiches often utilized pronouns that were purposely ambiguous in order to live a life they wanted. Reuben, Monte Cristo, even the Patty Melt are all instances of sandwich fluidity, where sandwiches chose not to fulfill the role of one sandwich based on how they were made, but to embrace all sandwich identities. Today, though, a ham sandwich is only a ham sandwich in that it acknowledges its sandwich identity as it was truly meant to be their choice, and not the choice of the patron at the deli counter.
As sandwich identity politics unfold there are certainly more issues to address and questions to raise. The sandwiches, though, are the ones to guide the discussion. Throughout history, they were forced to live with their secret and suppress their desire to have the life they wanted. Now? Not so much the case. And the truth about being a ham sandwich? Well, that’s an issue only a ham sandwich can address, for we are merely patrons at a deli.
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