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Sandwich Wisdom from the Earl of Scanwich

The Cubano Italiano, adapted from Tom Colicchio's " 'wichcraft" (Clarkson Potter, 2009). (Sandwich scan by Patterson Clark -- The Washington Post)

Jon Chonko doesn't think about sandwiches the way he used to. Before a couple of months ago, when he started his Scanwiches blog (about which I rhapsodize in today's Cooking for One column), "I was not much of a sandwich connoisseur, not even really a foodie so much," said the New York City designer. He was really just looking for a cool visual project that he figured wouldn't last more than a few weeks. "And then it became something much bigger very quickly."

That's because his blog went viral, at least among the food crowd. And then the pressure was on. "I quickly went through all my favorite sandwiches. Turns out I was a four-sandwich kind of guy."

Unlike others who get into lunchtime ruts, Chonko had issued himself a challenge: Never scan the same sandwich twice. Now, 100 sandwiches in, "the process is that I think about it ahead of time. I think about what I want in a sandwich and then where I can get it."

And he thinks about them differently. "I never used to get that excited about ingredients or anything, but Scanwiches has made me learn so much about sandwiches and what goes into them." Take his April 7 entry. He had ordered up a combination from a Manhattan deli because he figured it would look particularly appetizing. And it does: cappy ham, muenster, sprouts, carrots, mustard and mayo on wheat toast. "I wanted all that texture in there, but it didn't taste great. The bread couldn't handle the weight, and the carrots were weird with the ham and the sprouts."

In the process of making his Scanwiches, Chonko discovered that he's part of a sub-genre of scanner art -- or, actually, a sub-sub genre of scanner food art that includes captivating images of greenmarket produce and fast-food items.

In our interview, Chonko swore the scanning process was straightforward. It's true. When I enlisted the help of Post graphic artist Patterson Clark to scan my own sandwiches (one original recipe and three adaptations from Tom Colicchio's new " 'wichcraft" book), we figured we'd spent a lot of time tweaking the placement of the sandwiches on the glass of the flat-bed scanner.

Chonko said he turns the lights off in the room at work where he keeps his scanner, but we didn't have that luxury (too many coworkers need that light!), so instead we borrowed a black light-blocking box from photographer Julia Ewan, who shoots many of the Food section images. We used toothpicks when needed to keep the sandwiches together, placed them one or two halves at a time on the glass, covered with the black box and scanned away. Truth be told, they looked so great the first or second time that the whole process for four scanwiches was over in about a half hour.

That was less time than it took to make them, and less time than it took to (eventually) eat them.

The Cubano Italiano, adapted from Tom Colicchio's " 'wichcraft" (Clarkson Potter, 2009). (By Julia Ewan -- The Washington Post)

We decided to let Julia shoot the sandwiches the conventional way, too, figuring that they'd read better that way for the small placement in the Recipe Finder. Which do you like better, the scan at top or the photo at right, of this Cubano Italiano?

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  April 29, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cooking for One  | Tags: Joe Yonan, cookbooks, sandwiches  
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Jon, come to the Breadline on Pennsylvania Ave. near the World Bank. They have a hummus, romaine, and sausage on a pita that is To. Die. For.

Posted by: bs2004 | April 29, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

You should go to the Italian Store in Arlington, order a large sopressata on a soft roll with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, hot and sweet peppers, and italian dressing, and see if you can get back to the office to scan it without eating it first.

Posted by: GabrielFry | April 29, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

GabrielFry: What isn't absolutely delicious at The Italian Store? And why can't the lovely folks at The Italian Store move into D.C.? It's hard to make time to drive all the way to and from Spout Run during D.C. on a lunch hour! Their muffuletta is sooooo good. But, then again, so is their basic Italian sub (The Capri = capacola ham, prosciutto, Genoa salami, provolone) with everything. Plus, they're one of the few places around here that has Martin's chips and Berger's cookies. Okay, I have to stop talking about The Italian Store now. I'm drooling on my keyboard and this is going to be really hard to explain to the IT guys.

Posted by: sdecker | April 29, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

By the way, the scanned image is definitely better.

Posted by: sdecker | April 29, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

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