My sister is currently on a diet and I am currently on the opposite of that, so a lot of our conversations recently have focused on Foods She Misses Having the Way She Likes Them and Foods I Like and Can Now Have Again Because Enough of You People Are Going Gluten-Free That Those of Us That Don’t Have the Choice Profit from Your Plumping up the Market.  The intersection of these topics is often sandwiches.  Sandwiches are hands-down my sister’s favorite food, and hands-up one of the foods I never thought I would really eat again, given that gluten-free breads, for a long time, tasted like little decks of playing cards.  But even given the improved gluten-free developments referenced above, it is still the middles of sandwiches I like the best.   My sister and I were discussing this the other day.

Sandwich-Loving Sister:  How can you love the filling more than the sandwich as a whole?  The entire point of a sandwich is the way the texture of the bread works with the texture of the filling!

Me:  The entire point of a sandwich is having a lot of mayonnaise. (pause)  Or melted cheese.

SWL:  Are you insane?    The bread is what gives mayonnaise and cheese a reason for being!

 Me:   Nope.  The bread is just the delivery vehicle for the yummy part.  THE INSIDES.

 SWL:  (horrible sound of hair being torn) Are we even sisters?!

Me:  Yup.

In the tumultuous aftermath of this conversation, I realized my position towards editorial letters and the like is exactly the same as my view of sandwiches.    And that makes sense because editorial letters are so often constructed just like sandwiches.  Criticism sandwiches.

I’m sure you all have heard of this.  When one delivers criticism, the theory goes, one is meant to lead with a compliment, touch upon a point that could use improving, and then end with more compliments.  As in, “You look so pretty today!  Did you know you have a  popsicle stick stuck in your hair?   Your shoes are heaven!”  Compliment, criticism, compliment.     Bread, filling, bread.

I get the thinking behind this for sure.  But for me, the minute I receive an editorial letter or an email from a friend who has offered a critical eyeball on a draft of something I have written, all I can do is skim until I hit the meat.

Me reading editorial notes:  Blah, blah, blah you love me YES I AGREE THAT WHOLE PART STINKS LIKE THE BUSINESS END OF A FARM ANIMAL, kind things, whatever, blah.

All I care about is the farm animal, people.  If I am honest, I don’t even believe the bread.  I appreciate the gesture of the bread.  But the filling feels like the truth to me, confirming as it does my own belief that everything I write is kind of terrible.

I didn’t say I was rational.

But that’s the way it is, and I have to admit I like the symmetry of my reactions to criticism sandwiches and actual ones.  I know other people are different. For example, I have a friend who always prefaces conversations about her work with careful coaching.  “I need my compliment sandwiches with a lot of bread,” she tells us, and indeed, I am a total bread-giver as a reader.  My comments are practically encased in a whole peasant loaf.  And I mean every word!  So why do I only believe in a full-on Scooby Doo sandwich minus the endpieces for myself?   Maybe I am just wary of bread, even when metaphorical.  Or maybe I am a little bats.   Probably both.

How about you?  How do you like your feedback sandwiches?  I’d love to hear what you think!





  1. I’m with you! ‘Bread’ is delicious, and crave-able, but it’s not filling nourishment (and too much of it is not healthy either).

  2. Mm, juicy question. (And so agree about the little decks of playing cards!) I do like the bread when it is well-made bread. When it is, in fact, not like a little deck of playing cards, and especially when it is unlike bread I have tasted recently. For example, “Great characters, great voice” doesn’t always taste delicious, because I hear that a lot (don’t worry, I have plenty that stinks like the business end of a farm animal.) However, yes, I totally go for the meat. Maybe I’m a masochist, but it feels pleasurable to have someone take me seriously enough to engage with me critically. Meat can sometimes be stinky and taste too much like the person who cut it, but yes, I like meat.*

    *In a metaphorical sense. Not real red-blood. Turkey is fine. Tempeh is yum yum even better.

  3. I prefer wraps, myself. Just enough bread to hold the filling together. Crusts? Superfluous! And yes I agree about the compliments in an editorial letter. They are usually so general that they seem like platitudes. It might be different if there were smiley faces next to every single strong verb, every clever turn of phrase, etc.

  4. You gals make excellent points! Carol, I wish I thought of a wrap. A wrap is perfect. and Jess, you are so exactly right. I don’t at all want to denigrate anyone’s genuinely meant comments, and they can be so helpful indeed to see if something works! That is true and welcome and a happy turn of events.

  5. I love sandwiches, real and metaphorical. I also love this blog post. I’m sorry, this comment has no filling.

    To answer your question, I suppose I just want the truth, whether that means the carby outer layer is thick as a baguette or thin as a crepe (mmmm…. crepes). I’ll eat either one.

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