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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country
THERE are things we do in our day-to-day life without really thinking about it.
We might take the same route to work, shop at the same store or eat at the same restaurant.
Even the tiny things we do, we might do in a certain order.
Think about it. Do you always sleep on the same side of the bed? When you get up do you put your glasses on before anything else? Or walk straight to the bathroom? Do you clean your teeth or have a cup of tea before you get dressed? And if you go for the hot beverage, do you put the milk in first or last?
The fact of the matter is, most of us are creatures of habit.
Perhaps we do it subconsciously, perhaps we just like a familiar and comforting routine. Maybe we have just always done things that way and see no reason to change.
This week one of my own habits was challenged.
It happened as I was preparing my daughter’s packed lunch for school. It always consists of a drink, a yoghurt, a piece of fruit, a packet of crisps and the centerpiece of any midday meal – a sandwich.
My husband, busy buttering his morning slice of toast (yes, he has the same thing every day), raised an eyebrow as he watched me grating cheese and slicing cucumber.
“Why do you always cut her sandwich into rectangles?” he said. “I’m a triangle kind of man. It just tastes better that way.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I replied laughing.
“Trust me,” he said. “Most people prefer triangles. It’s more pleasing to look at and there is a greater expanse of crustless surface to enjoy.”
Again I chuckled. But underneath I was slightly put out. Surely it makes no difference how you cut your bread?
In an attempt to disprove his rash culinary statements I took to social-networking websites Twitter and Facebook to carry out a straw poll on sandwich consumption.
Yes, I realise this is not the debate of the century but it actually prompted a greater response than I had expected.
And unbelievably I have discovered I am the only person in the 50 or so surveyed to choose rectangles over triangles.
“The diagonal cut shows off more of the inside of the sandwich which makes it look more appetising,” one said.
“Triangles psychologically taste better because they look like they came from a shop,” added another.
“Triangles are just nicer to eat,” said a third. “And if it’s good enough for Marks & Spencer, it’s good enough for me.”
This person has a point – or in the spirit of things triangular, perhaps I should say three.
After all, most pre-packaged sandwiches are sold with a diagonal cut.
And an expert sandwich maker I spoke to said the reason for this was three-fold – they look posher, prettier and more palatable.
Mark Northeast makes a living out of sandwich sculptures.
He has built a grand piano out of cucumber, cheese and twiglets and has made flying saucers out of tomatoes.
And all of his creations are featured in a book on making lunch fun under his own Funky Lunch brand.
“Shops choose triangles because they can showcase the filling,” he said. “The whole thing looks more appealing and better value for money.
“I think most sandwich-makers will settle on a choice between triangle or rectangle in childhood. Then it just becomes habit and you tend to always make your lunchtime snack the same way.”
This made me think. I didn’t want my daughter to feel trapped in a rectangular world simply because I had instilled the habit in her from childhood.
“How would you like to have your sandwiches cut?” I asked her. “Into rectangles or triangles?”
“Hearts,” she replied. “I would prefer hearts.”
According to a survey by Hellmann’s mayonnaise, 60% of people make a diagonal cut and 38% slice across. The final 2% eat their sandwich whole.
They didn’t record the number of people who opted for hearts so I’m guessing there are not many.
The 17th century poet John Dryden said: “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
So what exactly does our choice of sandwich cut say about us?
Well, much as I would have liked the EADT to commission a report into the personality traits of the different groups of sandwich munchers, there simply wasn’t time.
So instead, I approached a friend of mine who is studying psychology at university.
She refused to put her name to her “thoroughly unscientific” musings but agreed to hazard a guess at what made each sandwich eater tick.
“I would say people who ate their sandwich whole were bold, brave and the most carefree,” she said. “And that triangle-eaters were more adventurous, more likely to try new things and live life to the full.”
“You like triangles, don’t you?” I said accusingly.
“My preferences are irrelevant,” she replied. “I’m trying to think this all through logically.”
“Hmmm,” I replied doubtfully. “What about people who like rectangles?”
“Precise and controlled, a bit anally-retentive and very practical,” came the reply.
Great. It seems not only am I in the minority in liking rectangular sandwiches, but I also have the personality of a square.
Please email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.