I had a KFC Double Down once.
For the luckily uninitiated, sorry, but the Double Down is a cruel joke of a sandwich, a handheld pile of food, stuck in a bag, and presumably designed to give as many people diabetes as possible for five dollars. It’s two fried chicken patties as “bread” with bacon, cheese, and The Colonel’s Special Sauce in between. They stick it in a bag, and yay.
You eat it, and then you feel terrible about yourself, and then yourself feels terrible because you just ate what is basically a bag of fried canola oil, and then you never eat one ever again.
At least, that’s how it worked for me—and it's not how sandwiches work, either.
THE LEGEND GOES, AS you probably sort of know: The fourth Earl of Sandwich, back in the 18th century, was in a rush but needed to eat, so he asked for some cold meat placed between two pieces of bread and there it was: a sandwich.
But the idea of the sandwich—food between two pieces of bread—goes back a little further. From PBS:
Hillel the Elder, a Jewish leader and rabbi who lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod (circa 110 BC), first suggested eating bitter herbs inside unleavened matzo bread. The herbs symbolized the bitterness of slavery, and the bread resembled the flatbreads made in haste by the ancient Israelites as they fled Egypt. Hillel’s simple recommendation of sandwiching the two foods together may indicate that this was already a popular way of serving food in the Middle East.
The sandwich eventually went on to become a symbol for everyone: a quick and cheap lunch for the working class, and a tiny, hold-you-over tea-snack for the class that could afford to have tea snacks. They gained middle-class popularity in the U.S. when pre-packaged sliced bread became a thing and when parents started sending kids to school and they needed something quick, compact, and affordable.
The quick/crude history, then: Sandwiches have a universal appeal because they’re so easy to make and because they’re ultra customizable, thanks to such a simple template. Easily repeatable, but ultimately interchangeable. Bread-plus-filling-plus-more-bread now equals a staple of the human diet, not a novelty.
THE WORLD WILL SOON be a place where Dunkin' Donuts serves eggs, cheese, and bacon between a sliced glazed donut.
The Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich will debut in Dunkin' Donuts everywhere this Friday; it's already being served in Boston. The GDBS comes in at 360 calories. (Less calories than Dunkin’ Donuts’ bacon-egg-and-cheese-on-a-bagel, which says more about their bagels than any of the not-as-terrible-for-your-health benefits of the Donut “Sandwich.”) But the health value of it isn’t really an issue—you’re not eating a donut, and you’re definitely not eating a donut with eggs and bacon because you want to be healthy. Well, it’s an issue, but a much bigger one than something that uses a donut as bread.
The more immediate issue, then, is that this is not a sandwich. Like the Double Down, it’s the bastardization of a good idea. For a sandwich, you use bread to hold together the contents of a meal. Food you could hold without really getting messy makes sense. It’s evolved over time, sure, with sandwich spreads, wraps, different breads, etc., but the idea of the sandwich has generally remained the same and served the same purpose: a way to eat a bunch of different things without much fuss, which is the opposite of a donut filled with round, peppered eggs.
Glazed donuts and fried chicken are not “original takes” or “reimaginings of” the sandwich, as they’re occasionally being referred to. A Dunkin' Donuts chief executive even cited the Donut Sandwich as a way to to add variety to the menu, when it’s actually the exact opposite: it’s taking everything on the menu, throwing it together, and letting people pat themselves on the back for finding something new.
“There should be a place where someone can look between two pieces of bread, examine what is there and ponder what ought to be,” Pete Holtby writes of his website, the great On Sandwiches. “A place where each ingredient is considered on its own and in its relation to the larger piece.”
In a way, that’s what the history of the sandwich is, too: a bunch of incremental tweaks and changes that add up to a larger piece that’s still relatively the same as how it started. When you add fried chicken, special sauce, cheese, bacon, and more chicken together, you’re left with a pile of fried chicken, cheese, bacon, and sauce. And the same goes for a glazed donut, bacon, and eggs.
Eat those things, sure. (But also: maybe don’t eat those things.) Eat whatever you want—just don’t call this a sandwich.