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August is, unofficially, National Sandwich Month. Don't plan to celebrate with a burrito, though, because a burrito isn't a sandwich. That's the law. MA Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Locke so ruled in 2006 after Panera Bread sued to keep Qdoba Mexican Grill out of a shopping center, claiming it would violate the center’s one-sandwich-shop agreement. The judge said he used common sense and a dictionary to decide what qualified as a sandwich. It needed 2 pieces of bread (“thin and usually buttered”) to meet the test. Burritos didn’t. Qdoba Mexican Grill, whose main attractions were burritos, won.

But about that definition: 2 thin slices of bread, usually buttered. Thin? What about baguettes, ciabatta, Kaiser rolls? Buttered? Consider mayo, mustard, horseradish, oil and vinegar. Aside from that, would quesadillas (one piece, folded) or hot dogs (one piece, hinged) fit the definition? Open-face sandwiches certainly wouldn’t make the cut.

H.D. Renner wouldn't have argued with that. He opposed the top piece of bread.

“One sandwich tastes much the same as another...It is only high up in the culinary scale that one finds delicacies spread on bread without the coffin-lid which spells death to the flavour."

That was 1944. Did Mr. Renner know he'd already lost the battle? By then, sandwiches with coffin lids were a staple for lunch and often dinner, at least in the U.S. And there were so many more from around the country and the world that we hadn't tasted yet. Would he have been won over if he'd sampled an oyster po'boy, a ban mi, a beef on weck (heh), a Cubano, a Senegalese bean sandwich? Maybe. But I think he might have been surprised that sandwiches could inspire poetry:

Grilled rye on high
melted swiss on kraut and beef
a Russian on my Reuben

Dandelion leaves
Avocado, re-fried beans
Yes this is heaven

golden delicious
warm cheese melts me to my soul
i’ll have another

What’s your favorite sandwich? Have you ever felt moved to compose a poem about it? Do you prefer your sandwiches with or without the coffin lid? Or would you rather throw caution to the wind, flout the law, and eat a burrito?

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