When you’ve got your nose to the nacho grindstone like myself, you hear many a strange and frightening thing. Many of them are just noises in the aether, the kind you hear when putting your ear to a conch shell, but others are so crazy they can’t be anything but true. What if I told you that there’s a theory that all foods can be summed up as either being nachos or sandwiches? Is it madness? Or is it saneness?
In a recent article with Justin Warner the “iconoclastic toque” behind the Bed-Stuy restaurant Do or Dine, he claims that “Basically, all food is either a sandwich, which is stuff encased in stuff—like a burrito or ravioli. Or it’s nachos, which is stuff with stuff piled on top of it.” As bold a statement as any you might read on the internet. While sandwiches are pretty tasty and nachos are of course delicious, as much as I'd like to be able to apply those attributes to all foods, I can not in good conscious do so.
As we all know, the first true nacho only dates back to 1943, a mere 60 years ago. While the word “sandwich” dates back to notorious gambler John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, in the 1700’s, their precursors, known as “Trenchers”, go back to the middle ages. Farther back still, legends of the Jewish sage Hillel the Elder state that he would use matzah flatbread style during Passover to eat sandwich like meals back in the first century BCE. While derivations of both items undoubtedly existed non-canonically far beforehand, the fact that humans as we know them have been around for more than 150,000 years, and eating that whole time, which makes it very hard to sum up all food into two recent items.
Take the granddaddy of the sandwich, the burrito, also known as “the little burro”. The Spanish “discovered” them for Europe when they came to the new world, but tortillas themselves have been found dating back to 10,000 BCE making them exist for a far longer timeframe than sandwiches. So should we say that everything can be boiled down to nachos or burritos? Nachos are themselves nothing but a pile of food that happens to have a chip base. Salad is a pile of food with a lettuce base that goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, so should we say that all nachos are salads? And all salads are just soups without water, so should we say everything is a soup? And a soup is just a pile of food in water, which is what nachos are but without the water. How far down this circular rabbit hole do we want to go? It’s turtles all the way down.
If we go back to the absolute beginning, we’ve got to start with the cavemen who discovered fire a million plus years ago, allowing them to invent cooking. In these early tribes you had your hunters, who would provide the meat, and the gatherers, who would provide the... er... gathers, I guess. So when these two got together back at the campground you had one group with a singular meat, and the gatherers with their pile of whatever they gathered up, thus creating the original two groups, the singular food item and the pile of food. Too simplistic? Perhaps, but this is the origin, and if we want to break these things down, which is the point here, let’s not do it half assed.
Getting to define all food as nachos or sandwiches would be a dream, fun while it lasts, but upon waking you realize that it’s just brain activity that occurs involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. It’s a fantasy, nothing more, nothing less. You can sum food up into a million different things, or a single one, it’s entirely up to you, I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but just boiling food down to nachos or sandwiches is doing yourself, and everyone else, a disservice. Expand your mind friends, don’t let the concept of nachos hold you back.