816 North Opinion

Choosing to make the sandwich, with love

How you cut the sandwich is emotionally important.
How you cut the sandwich is emotionally important. Columnist

“Mom?” he whispered. I lay still hoping he would go away.

“Mom?” he said a little louder. Nope, not going away.


“It’s time to wake-up,” he said. “Can you make me peanut butter toast?”


“And cut it across the bread?”

“Jerk,” I said with love.

He laughed all the way down the hallway.

A little backstory: After his whole lifetime of diagonally-cut-into-two-triangles sandwich-eating and after my whole lifetime of diagonally-cut sandwich-making, my 13-year-old son stunned me a few weeks ago when he asked if I could cut his sandwich horizontally into two rectangles.

All my defenses of the diagonal-cut sandwich (more crust-free edge, smaller corner areas for first bite, better fit in the palm, tradition) didn’t sway him. I acquiesced because I love him; he’s eating it, not me, and if this is his idea of teen rebellion, I’m delighted to cut his sandwich and his toast the wrong way.

That morning I took out the bread, the peanut butter, a knife and a plate. I set the toaster to his preferred setting, lighter than anyone else in the house, and dropped in three pieces of bread. I waited there until they popped-up so that I could grab them fast, freshly toasted, for maximum peanut butter meltage (the toaster is right next to the coffee maker and mugs, I’m not that selfless).

That morning I cut his toast into rectangles because I love him. I had made him breakfast because I love him and, right after I did, I started to make his lunch for the very same reason.

“He’s 13? He can make his own breakfast and lunch!” you may say.

Of course, he can — and often does. My older kids were in middle school when they chose to begin making their own school lunches. Independence is the goal and that was one heartwarming milestone I was proud to witness, but the opportunity to do this for them ended and, in a few years, it will end for Noah, too.

Sandwiches other people make for me are always better. It’s a simple food that isn’t hard to make, but there are several extra decisions to making them well. None of these are important to the physical sandwich, but when I show people I love that I know their sandwich preferences, it’s important to both of us on an emotional level.

Bread. What kind? Is the bread fresh? Is it squished? A roll? Flatbread? Does it matter to them?

What innards? This is usually limited by what’s available in the house, but my boys love bologna sandwiches and my daughter won’t eat one, she would be happy with peanut butter — with honey or cinnamon sugar — every day.

Condiments, yay or nay? Which ones? How thinly applied?

Lettuce? Tomato? Onion? Salt and pepper? Garlic powder is one of my secret tuna salad ingredients (capers or sliced olives and water chestnuts are the others). While the 13-year-old smiles with delight if tuna salad is on his plate, my husband won’t eat it at all, so I don’t waste time and tuna making it for him.

Would they all eat whatever is in front of them? Yes, they would, but they prefer certain things and I prefer to customize to their tastes, if possible.

It’s a choice.

That morning, with love, I chose to make Noah a sliced turkey on white with the thinnest layer of mayo, not Miracle Whip. I put it in his lunchbox with an ice pack, a can of iced tea, diced pears, chocolate pudding, a snack-sized sleeve of Club crackers, two Handi-wipes, and a spoon wrapped in a napkin.

How did I cut his sandwich? Horizontally. Twice. Into four squares. Because sometimes I choose to be the jerk.

Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. She is a co-host of the women’s history podcast, The History Chicks, and the historical media recap podcast, The Recappery. Visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com for more of her work.