The One Sandwich Anthony Bourdain Hated With A Passion

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Perhaps best known for his blunt, tell-it-like-it-is demeanor, Anthony Bourdain never held back his opinion when discussing food. He had no reservations about speaking his mind, especially in regard to fads he found to be obnoxious, or foods that he just didn't like. One such food, the classic club sandwich, was frequently the focus of his ire.

In a 2016 interview with the L.A. Times discussing his cookbook "Appetites," Bourdain did not mince words when asked about food trends he hated. As he told the Times, "I'm really irritated by that useless middle slice of bread on the club sandwich." If you've ever wondered what the purpose of that third slice of toast smack dab in the center was for, you were not alone. According to Bourdain, the only purpose it served was to annoy him. He went on to complain: "It's been there forever; it's not a trend. It's lasted for decades and why, when we can so easily dispense with it?" Why indeed.

Why Anthony Bourdain hated club sandwiches

The club sandwich originated in the United States in the late 1800s, first coming to prominence as a meal served at exclusive gentlemen's clubs, hence the name. It eventually became a staple of the hospitality industry, served in hotels, and long since associated with something you would order from room service.

A typical club starts off with the usual sort of sandwich formula: toasted bread, mayonnaise, and layers of chicken, lettuce, tomato, and bacon. In some iterations, turkey is used instead of chicken, and ham replaces the bacon. So far so good, but here's where things go awry as far as Anthony Bourdain is concerned. The first layer of sandwich gets topped with another piece of bread that's been spread with mayo, then on top of that, a second layer of the sandwich fillings, before it's all topped with the final slice of toast ... often with a frilled toothpick inserted to hold the multilayered assemblage together. This then gets sliced diagonally twice, creating four individual triangles.

To be clear, it wasn't the taste of the sandwich ingredients that bothered him; it was that inexplicable, slippery third piece of bread through the middle that vexed him so. In a list titled "Crimes Against Food" (via Thrillist) published on the now-defunct List app, Bourdain wrote in his usual hyperbolic fashion, "You know who invented the middle slice? Enemies of freedom. Their mission? Sap our will to live by ruining our sandwich experiences through 'tectonic slide.'"

Triangles of sadness

We can think of worse problems, but Bourdain did have a point about that slick and perplexing extra slice. What's it there for other than to make the top and bottom layers of the sandwich slip around while you're trying to eat them? If there was ever a legitimate reason for its placement there, it has been lost to the annals of history.

What we do know is that despite Anthony Bourdain's outright rejection of it, the club sandwich has endured. Served at everyday restaurants, delis, coffee shops, and even offered in gas station vending machines, it's become a worldwide favorite. And while hotel food is not just club sandwiches anymore, to this day they are considered a gauge by which travelers judge a hotel's cuisine.

We can't help but wonder if a turkey club sandwich recipe would still be considered a club at all if its offending center slice were to be omitted. Is it that extra piece that makes it a club, or is it the ingredients within? Furthermore, can it even still be called a club if not cut into triangles? We may never know the answers to these questions, but one thing is for sure — Anthony Bourdain wasn't having any of it. Sharing what may have been some of his last thoughts on the topic in a 2016 interview with NPR, he declared in no uncertain terms: "The third slice of bread on a club sandwich, I think, is a satanic invention."

Breads that cannot be trusted

Bread was a frequent trigger for Bourdain's disdain. In the top slot of his compendium of food offenses, he ranked the brioche bun burger as the worst food crime. Explaining that a hamburger bun needs to be able to absorb a juicy burger's grease, he insisted that already buttery-by-nature brioche was not up to the task. Rather than soak up the meat's desirable juices, the soft and flaky French bread fails miserably by crumbling apart. In continuing his rant against food blasphemy, he declared in no uncertain terms that "God is against the brioche bun" (per Thrillist).

Another bread hijinks perpetrator on Bourdain's list of ne'er-do-wells is, as he called it, "the half-assed muffin on eggs benedict." English muffins themselves weren't so much the issue; it was the fact that most people who prepare Benedicts only toast the inner side of the bread, with the outer surface left undercooked, pasty, and with a texture woefully unworthy of their eggs, ham, and hollandaise sauce toppings.

Even so, the much-maligned club stands out as the most frequent target of Anthony Bourdain's indignation. After all, in his "Appetites" book, he implied that the double-decker sandwich was scheming to destroy America. Thankfully for us, Bourdain's toothpick-wielding nemesis has yet to rise up in the manner he predicted, and as of yet, hotels and country clubs remain safe from any such culinary upheavals.