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Sandwich slicing - whole vs. rectangle vs. triangle

This seems to be a bone of contention in some families, akin to the over/under toilet paper debate.

This story expounds upon possible explanations for the popularity of the triangle:
http://www.npr.org/templates/transcri... but does not address the matter of halves vs. quarters.

My most frequent childhood lunch was spreadable liverwurst on firm white bread. My mother sliced it in half crosswise, then halved each rectangle lengthwise, so I had 4 logs on my plate. I have no idea why, nor have I ever seen anyone else slice a sandwich that way. Never thought to ask her when she was alive.

If you have a preference, do you know why?

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  1. i certainly can't speak for your dear departed mother, but i slice sandwiches that way for children because those "logs" are a more manageable size and shape for little hands and mouths.

    1. I'm a down-the-middle-to-form-two-rectangles kinda gal. I prefer more crust-free bites. I am also amazed at how strong my feelings are on this matter. :)

      1. Yah, I think what your mom did is a mom-thing -- slicing bread in manageable little slices. My parents called them "schäfchen" (baby sheep, lord knows why...).

        Nowadays, I'm fonder of the rectangular than the diagonal. I guess it depends on what's on the sammich. I find that BLTs are easier to handle when they're cut rectangular. With just cold cuts, it probably doesn't matter.

        Clearly, no strong feelings here either way '-D

        1 Reply
        1. re: linguafood

          Hey - my mom was raised in Germany so you may be on to a cultural thing! I never caught the bug - triangles for me, often in quarters..

        2. I read somewhere that slicing diagonally makes it easier to hold the halves of the sandwich. I personally have always sliced into rectangles, for no other reason that habit. Now that I think of it, slicing diagonally sounds oddly appealing..

          1. With open face sandwiches, cut in strips, called "bread sticks".

            1. Club sandwiches are often sliced that way so you get four "logs".

              I prefer my sandwiches in triangles.

              1. For sandwiches I single diagonal cut. For some reason, with most fillings, that seems the easiest to handle.

                But can I please stand up and say that when it comes to things like baguettes or any sandwich made in a long thin shaped loaf - I think Americans would refer to them as "subs" - I know it looks sophisticated or whatever, but when you order one at a shop, the "dramatic diagonal slice in half" just. doesn't. work. I had a girl do it with a proud flourish the other day and I had to chuckle as I walked away, because she'd done the diagonal cut just so darn dramatically that half the filling had fallen out, and for several bites all I was eating was very pointy bread.

                3 Replies
                1. re: raisingirl

                  "...when it comes to things like baguettes or any sandwich made in a long thin shaped loaf - I think Americans would refer to them as 'subs' the 'dramatic diagonal slice in half' just. doesn't. work."

                  Actually, I do that at home. I find it easier to take a bite when I have the point of the diagonal to start with. Especially when the sandwich is overstuffed. And without a doubt when I make a wrapped sandwich. To each his own. :)

                  1. re: raisingirl

                    Actually, "subs" is not totally correct. In various regions they take on different names, such as "hoagie" and "grinder". Maybe while one of us is easily cutting our way through a neat, rectangular sandwich some research can be done as to the origin of all these names for the same shaped bread. How about it?

                  2. As soon as I saw this, I was reminded of a "Peanuts" strip I saw years ago. I can't remember if if it was Lucy and Linus, or Charlie Brown and Sally, but the older one was making peanut butter on bread for the younger. As the older one went to slice it, the younger said (approx.) "Auugghh! Don't slice it! Fold it!!", and in the last panel, as the young one walked happily away, he/she said "If you slice it, all the flavour runs out.".

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: FrankD

                      I remember that one and I think it goes back a loong way.

                      1. re: FrankD

                        As soon as I read the title to this post, before opening it, I said to my daughter, "Lucy folds it to keep the flavor in."

                        The bread I tend to get is short and fat with a slightlu uneven top so triangles don't work. I cut in half - rectangles ( with slightly irregular tops)

                      2. For regular sandwiches, I cut them on the diagonal, then when I eat each half, I eat one pointy end in two bites, then the other, and work my way towards the middle. I think it just fits better in my mouth that way. BLTs don't get cut at all because the bacon just falls out if I do; it's easier for me to grip a whole sandwich tightly to prevent losing the bacon.

                        Grilled cheese sandwiches, however, are another matter altogether. I always had them cut into four triangles, and I really like them that way (again, I think it's the pointy thing). However, my husband likes them cut into four squares, and oftentimes I share my sandwich with him (he gets five pieces and I get three), so to make him happy, I cut mine into squares also. I don't like it that way, but I like him (a lot) so I do it. I can't say why, but it does bug me just a little. So sometimes I make him one and a half, cut into squares, and I make myself a whole one cut into triangles. He likes it that way because (why else) his mother always made them that way for him. What we won't do for thems that we luv.

                        Never had a sandwich cut into logs. I don't think I'd like pieces with almost all crust and pieces with almost no crust. I like the balance of a little bit of crust with each bite. Maybe that's why I like triangles when I cut them in half. Never really thought about it before!

                        1. I cut sandwiches half way between a triangle and a rectangle cut. I cut the sandwich on the diagonal, but not corner to corner. One side is about twice as long as the other. So, if the bread was marked at the one third and two thirds point, I would slice placing the knife at one third at the top and two thirds at the bottom. So, diagonal cut, but no pointy corners.

                          I like that the diagonal cut exposes more filing, and is to me, then, a little prettier, but I don't like the empty pointy corners. This solves both problems. I cut a sandwich this way once by accident and I liked it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: runwestierun

                            +1. Happy to find I'm not the only one.

                          2. either into 4 triangles or 2 rectangles

                            I don't know why

                            1. Nothing compares with the toilet paper debacle. I swear that, one day, even after nearly 38 years, I will divorce her over this. I'm sure she does it to spite me.

                              As to sandwich, straight down the middle into 2 rectangles. My mother was a corner to corner person into two rectangles. Except on Sunday's when they were cut again into 4 rectangles. Crusts off only if we had visitors.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Harters

                                I know I'm not visualizing this, but how can you get 2 rectangles out of a corner to corner cut?

                                1. re: bbqboy

                                  I'm assuming Harters meant to write "triangles" but mistyped.

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    I was just trying to do the puzzle in my head, like those infernal matchstick games. :)

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      Apologies - I did indeed mean to write triangles - sometimes I just get confused with my words or spellings (my favourite Chowhound one was to write "tongues" when I meant "tongs" - took me ages to work out why folk were joking with me - and asking if it was a British spelling)

                                  2. re: Harters

                                    Harters, you Brits probably haven't seen the American TV commercials about the TP wars. They ran a poll - over won. It's the only way the hotel crew can fold the paper into a point - on the other hand, under means the cat can't unroll the whole thing while the owners are off at work! One commercial included a TP holder that rotates on the wall so the feed goes from over to under with the twist of a wrist - I think this was a joke but wouldn't be surprised to see them sold - by marriage counselors. There's at least SOME rationale for the strong TP preferences - more logical than the equally strong slicing preferences, IMO.

                                    After having proclaimed myself in the triangular halving/quartering camp, I realized that I always cut PB&J crosswise, and only in half. I agree with those who feel that the point of the triangle is the easiest spot to start consuming the sandwich, especially for people who have smaller/narrower mouths. But I have no idea why I slice the PB&J differently.

                                  3. Grilled cheese sandwiches are 4 triangles

                                    Any meat sandwich is 2 triangles

                                    Peanut butter/PB and jelly is 4 squares

                                    I don't know why but that's the way my mother used to cut sandwiches for me when i was younger and i'm still following those patterns to this day

                                    1. I'm definitely a triangle person. My mom and grandma cut them that way as well. And if you are feeding children in the home, make 4 triangles. My daughter is keeping up with the tradition and my grandsons get 4 triangles as well! I don't think it was ever something "spoken" about, it just was what it was!

                                      1. When I was a child my mother cut them into four squares. I was so envious of kids who got diagonal-cut sandwiches.

                                        When I grew up I cut them on the diagonal a few times then went back to squares. The angles are too skinny on diagonals and stuff spills out.

                                        1. I cut sandwiches on the diagonal. Sometimes one cut for two triangles and sometimes two cuts for four triangles.

                                          1. Mom always cut them corner-to-cornerand Dad cut them into rectangles. When Dad made pb&j's for us, he would put both on one slice and fold it over, essentially making it a "double stuff" half sandwich...now THAT was a treat! (And sometimes it was just peanut butter...even more special!)

                                            Now a days it depends on my mood, the shape of the bread,and what's in it. There's probably something wrong with me, but it really doesn't matter.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: al b. darned

                                              absolutely the same with my mom and dad. Mom would put a skimpy amount of peanut butter, and then put on a top slice of bread.

                                              Dad would slather generously and then fold over.

                                              Always waited for Dad to ask for PNut Butter sandwich.

                                            2. My mother always cut all sandwiches except grilled cheese into 4 triangles and plated them with two of them flat (the bottom and the top) on either end of the other two resting on their crusts. Decorated with pickle or olives depending on the filling (cold roast beef, canned salmon, or bacon and tomato, dill pickle; ham, sweet pickle; poultry or roast pork, or egg salad, olives). PB, PB&J, PB and banana, plain banana, same way, no pickle. I think this was because of her "domestic science" courses in high school.
                                              Grilled cheese was always with dill pickle and cut diagonally into two. Hot meat sandwiches (a big Canadian thing at least then, cold roast whatever on white bread with gravy poured over, never liked them myself) were plated whole.
                                              I'm ad hoc on the cutting myself, the bread I make is usually in boules so I generally just cut sandwiches in two vertically. If nostalgic and the right bread is on hand, I follow my mother's lead.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                Mmmm.. hot open face roast beef sandwich with gravy, mashed potatoes and those awful green peas... used to be a staple at "family restaurants" everywhere in the GTA. Hardly ever see them now..

                                                1. re: FrankD

                                                  I wonderered if they were still about. A staple of my family's table. I remember when Graham Kerr was asked what the Canadian national dish was he said: "a hot roast pork sandwich".

                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                    Ohhh, I had a hot roast pork sandwich the other week from a takeaway shop in town. Served with apple sauce & sage & onion stuffing - on a bread roll (or barmcake as we call them round here). Not cut!

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      These are just slices of roast pork laid on slices of white sandwich bread with the hotted-up gravy poured over. My mom didn't heat the meat in the gravy so the result was a bit on the lukewarm side (and I'm not overly fond of gravy in any case). She would always serve applesauce with pork (holy writ, also with duck and goose) so there would be some on the table. You eat these with knife and fork.
                                                      Yours sounds much better - as was the fantastic Italian pulled pork sandwich I had in Philadelphia last week (hoagie/sub/hero roll sliced in 2 halves). I actually love cold roast pork in sandwiches (cut depending on bread) too, the best cold meat as far as I'm concerned. There used to be a place on Nassau St in lower Manhattan (Butler's) that served fresh-cut roast leg of pork on kaiser rolls (jus optional) that was to die for.

                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                        I am always deeply interested in those cultures where their language has the word of "meat" being the same as the word for "pig". :-)

                                                        However, you must have a try at the cold roast lamb sandwich. Bit of a fiddle to prepare as you need to get rid of any fat (cold lamb fat is not one of life's joys, IMO) and then very thinly slice. Best accompaniment would be some fruity chutney - but one with a bit if a chilli kick (although I make a tomato/chilli/lime one which goes very well with it - in fact it goes very well with many things)

                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                          There is a very swell lunch-only restaurant we like that offers the area's only roast lamb sandwich. It's been too long since I've had one for me to remember its dressing, but the bread is a house-baked rosemary and raisin. First time I got it was mostly from curiosity - could that really be good?? - but it truly works very well. That little bit of tangy fruitiness is the perfect touch. It would work with roast pork as well, I think.

                                                          For locals, that's Julienne's in San Marino.

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            Our cold roast lamb is usually made into a Chinesey (speaking of meat = pork) or Thai-y cold meat salad, but the sandwiches with chili condiment sound very good. I'm a stickler about getting rid of the fat, even before I roast it. There are a couple of places here that make warm sandwiches of lamb cooked with lots of cumin and garlic on a sort of pita-ish but softer bread - a Xi'an and farther west Chinese specialty. They're about the size of a hamburger but so much better - and are eaten unsliced, to return to the putative topic.

                                                2. I like my sandwiches uncut, including grilled cheese.

                                                  1. Now I posted earlier that I cut at an angle, but a caveat to that is egg salad! If I make myself an egg salad sandwich, I put the egg on one half of a slice and fold it over (no one else in my house eats it anyway). Its the only time I do this!

                                                    1. My mom always cut them in half top to bottom. When I made my own, I cut them in half crosswise; I preferred the bottom crust to the top, as the top crust back then was always a bit tough and chewy, and so I'd eat that half first and save the bottom half for "dessert". Diagonals were how other peoples' weird moms cut them, or restaurants, and we considered that an affectation. Nowadays, however, I cut them diagonally, as I've found the innards less likely to fall out that way. The exception is bread cut from a wide, low loaf, such as most of the artisanal varieties. I'll either cut those vertically or not at all.

                                                      The Pancake Pantry in Nashville has a sandwich called The Dipper, which is a sort of patty-melt that's served with a cup of dipping sauce (the nature of which I've completely forgotten, though I remember liking it). To facilitate this, the sandwich is cut into four vertical bars.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        That dipping sauce is probably "au jus sauce." '-D

                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                          No, it was a sour-cream and horseradish sauce. Just came back to me. A bunch of my friends used to like going there in a mob, and as my passion for pancakes had gone away sometime before I turned 30, I was glad to have SOMETHING on the menu I really liked.

                                                          Au jus is not an unknown item on Nashville menus, though it used to appear fairly often with a redundant preposition: "...with au jus". Kind of like the PIN number for the ATM machine...

                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                            and the "sauce" part is just as redundant, which was my original point. couldn't help myself '-)

                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                              I see that one all the time and it makes me crazy. Even more so when I hear a "Professional Chef" say "and here we have the au jus"; it makes me want to smack the table. . .how did you get to be a professional chef and not know that "au" means with and "jus" means juice? It's like when they call it MARScapone. . .it makes me crazy.

                                                          2. re: Will Owen

                                                            You're the first person I've ever heard mention a preference for the bottom crust on sandwich bread. Me too. I would always save that triangle for the last.

                                                          3. just depends on what kind of sandwich i eat. majority of the time if it the square(ish) shaped bread then sometimes i do the diagonal sometimes i leave it whole. but lately i been eating sandwich thins, so i dont need to cut them.

                                                            1. Depends on the size. I like them whole unless they're huge—then half. Something satisfying about grabbing it all up and gnawing...

                                                              1. Two or four triangles, or folded single slice of bread, but it really doesn't matter that much. I'm not going to whine if the bread's in squares or rectangles or even uncut, but it does make it a little harder to eat uncut.

                                                                1. I can't imagine trying to eat a whole, unsliced sandwich. Most of them I slice in quarters, squares or triangles, either is okay. Some are tricky and tend to fall apart if cut into small pieces (BLT), These I cut in half.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    But that's the fun, EWS and pikawicca! Two hands, wide open mouth.

                                                                  2. I love this thread!

                                                                    i like diagonal cuts for aesthetic reasons, it just looks pretty, either 2 or 4 pieces. But I find the rectangle shape more practical in terms of preventing spillage. I have a big problem with spilling food on myself, and there is much more spillage of filling when I eat diagonal sandwiches.

                                                                    And maybe it is just me, but why is it that those fancy sandwich rolls and fancy finger sandwiches taste better? I love tuna salad and egg salad, but in a regular sandwich, well not so exciting. But put it into a sandwich roll with a little slice of cornichon nestled in the center - wow! It makes it seem so special, and it just seems to taste special. I can have the exact same sandwich ingredients in a regular sandwich form, but it really isn't the same.

                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                    1. re: moh

                                                                      An egg salad sandwich is difficult to eat, no matter how you slice it. I've never had one rolled up, but it sounds like a good idea.

                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                        The widely-acclaimed best egg salad sandwich around here, from Europane in Pasadena, is served open-face. I was thinking that would be harder to eat, but on reflection I think it'd be easier, since you would be carefully holding the bread horizontally anyway and taking bites from the edge.

                                                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                                                          I'd probably just pick up the slice and fold it in half! :-)

                                                                          1. re: boyzoma

                                                                            The commonest problem with egg salad, or any such semi-fluid sandwich filling, is its tendency to squoosh out when you bite down on the top and bottom slices. The open-face setup gets around that problem by eliminating the upper slice. For my own egg salad sandwiches I solve it by using very tender-crumb bread, like a homemade-style white.

                                                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                                                              But I like to lick the stuff that oozes out. That's half the fun! I may be a bit old for this, but I still like to enjoy it as a kid would. But that's just me.

                                                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                This reminds me of a CI hint: when making sandwiches with squooshy filling, halve the top slice of bread first, then place the halves onto the filling-topped bread and complete the slice-through. It's a "Duh!" moment that I was ashamed had never occurred to me before.

                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                  That is smart. The sandwich filling fallout issue never arose with the sandwiches I grew up on - the fillings were never more than a third of an inch thick at most. I have never quite gotten used to the gargantuan amounts of meat etc that go in most US sandwiches.

                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                    Well, greygarious, I feel stupid - Duh! This shows you can teach an old dog a new trick! Thanks!!!!!

                                                                        2. For me, cutting diagonally has a more creative, artistic flourish. Even placement on the plate, with, say some mixed green salad piled somewhere in between the two sandwich halves, is a more visually appealing presentation. Food that is well presented is just more appetizing.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: svenbergman

                                                                            And if you're serving a scoop of potato or macaroni salad with it, or any other similar side offering, you can more easily frame that with a diagonally-cut sandwich than with a square-cut one.

                                                                          2. I prefer triangles to squares. But ........ I bought a sandwich at a Neiman Marcus cafe last week at the mall, got back to my car to eat it, opened it and it was not cut in half at all. Try eating a tuna salad, lettuce and tomato sandwich that was whole in the car, everything was falling out.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. In and around my hometown we have a deli sandwich called a Sloppy Joe that is deli meat based, not the tomato/meat mixture known elsewhere.

                                                                              Note the way the rye bread is sliced; most people I know save the middle/point piece to eat last!

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: johnlockedema

                                                                                Now that's a first for me. I've never seen it sliced quite that way! Good one!

                                                                                1. re: johnlockedema

                                                                                  That looks like a round sandwich, cut into thirds.

                                                                                  1. re: johnlockedema

                                                                                    I've never seen that cut before either. Interesting and thanks for sharing the photo.

                                                                                    1. re: decolady

                                                                                      Reminds me of "Don't Drink & Pie" on thesneeze.com (scroll down a couple of entries): http://thesneeze.com/

                                                                                      1. re: decolady

                                                                                        That's actually not a well cut example. The point piece should be exactly centered; the piece on the left shouldn't have the flat area.

                                                                                        The bread is Pechter's unseeded rye; they use the center two thirds of the loaf, slicing off the ends, or heels as they call them. They used to put the heels in a basket, and when I was a kid you could order a heel with butter or their homemade Russian dressing if you didn't have the $1.25 for a Sloppy Joe, the heel was a quarter.

                                                                                    2. I am a fan of triangles for grilled cheese, tuna, egg salad and any 'squishy' fillings like these.

                                                                                      Cut top to bottom for deli meat & cheese types, tomato sandwiches, and blt&A's. For these, you just have to be mindful of how you put in the ingredients relative to how you are going to cut it. For instance if I am making a ham/pickle/Cheddar, vertical cheddar and pickle slices to cover the ham, knowing I am going to end up with slice of each on each half. Perfect!

                                                                                      The best sandwich observation I have ever heard tho, was told to me by a great foody friend from Austin a couple years ago, and I am struck by how true it is, and that I have never heard it anywhere else so I share....
                                                                                      "A sandwich ALLWAYS tastes better when someone makes it for you, even if all the ingredients are the same, than if you had to make it yourself". Delish!

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                        "A sandwich ALLWAYS tastes better when someone makes it for you, even if all the ingredients are the same, than if you had to make it yourself".

                                                                                        I couldn't agree more!!

                                                                                      2. My standard cut is triangular. I guess it's for three reasons: 1) Holds in the filling better, 2) More aesthetically pleasing, and 3) I really like starting with the pointy end.

                                                                                        If 1) is not true of whatever sandwich I make I will cut it differently or leave it whole.

                                                                                        1. For me, I generally don't cut a sandwich up if I use bread loaf slices. If the sandwich is on a roll, I'll usually cut into half or a portion size I think I would be able to handle.

                                                                                          When I was a kid, my parents would usually do one single diagonal cut, except with grilled cheese, where you'd occasionally see double diagonal cut into four triangles.

                                                                                          Hmm, just for kicks, I might just start to cut my sandwiches into thirds just to be different :-D

                                                                                          1. For times when the sandwich is featured in multiples
                                                                                            It's fun to consider the cut of the trapezoid.
                                                                                            Best when cut crustless, it also yields
                                                                                            some real cool tiny isoceles triangles.

                                                                                            But I'd advise to avoid
                                                                                            the cut of the rhomboid
                                                                                            and stay a bit more
                                                                                            to defined angles.

                                                                                            Saves the rhomboids for that good group of friends
                                                                                            who share understanding for the non-equilateral.

                                                                                            1. If it's a sandwich for a workday lunch and I'm rushing/slapped something together, I don't cut it at all.

                                                                                              If I have more time/made more of an effort with the sandwich, I cut it in half (2 rectangles).

                                                                                              If I'm making sandwiches for afternoon tea, I cut off the crusts and do triangles.

                                                                                              1. I am surprised to see no one on this thread mentioning cutting out shapes with cookie cutters... If you did I missed it so far.

                                                                                                1. I have a case where it is not only out of habit from childhood, but also practical.

                                                                                                  For thick sandwiches (think club), I prefer them sliced diagonally, with a toothpick through the centre of each triangle to keep all the filling in place. I honestly don't think the toothpick will be able to hold as much if the pieces were logs or triangles.

                                                                                                  That way, I can also stand up the triangles on the plate with the diagonal cut facing up, to show the off the filling more than if the pieces were rectangles.

                                                                                                  1. Does anyone remember Friendly's Ice Cream restaurants? I worked there way, way, ......way back. At that time the hamburger patties were square and served on toasted (square) sandwich bread. The standard cut was neither vertical, producing rectangles, nor diagonal into triangles. It was sort of halfway in between producing two trapezoids (trapeziums for our Brit friends) as in the illustration below. Don't know who came up with that.

                                                                                                    1. You left out trapezoid. A Cuban sandwich has to cut on the biase for me making it a wedge ;). Most sandwiches I make on Cuban or French bread taste better
                                                                                                      When you start at the point.

                                                                                                      PS over the top

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                                        scuba, bobbert, kncarr, and runwestierun -long live the trapezoid. Nature abhors right angles and right triangles.