Scanwiches: Book examines ingredients

Jon Chonko sees sandwiches differently from the rest of us.

His just-released book, "Scanwiches," (powerHouse Books, $19.95) presents dozens of vivid cross-section photographs of the world's sandwiches, captured by resting them against the glass of a flatbed scanner.

It's not a cookbook — it's more like an idea book, with each sandwich carefully arranged and gorgeously captured, and each ingredient labeled.

"The sandwiches are my clients," Chonko says. "I'm trying to make them look their best."

It works.

Chonko, 26, has been making a project out of his lunch for more than two years on his blog, In the book, each sandwich has a few biographical details — a bit of history, some trivia. But he doesn't spell out how to make the sandwiches. Most of them speak for themselves. "One of the beauties of sandwiches is that you can kind of know how to make a sandwich just by looking at it and seeing what the ingredients are," he says.

By taking so many sandwiches apart, he's learned something about putting a sandwich together. What makes or breaks a sandwich? Balance.

"It's the ratio between the ingredients," Chonko says. "The perfect sandwich is a sandwich that doesn't go overboard on anything. It's really easy to do this when you're making a sandwich when you're hungry — to add more than you need to be on it. You add a couple extra slices of turkey because you're really hungry ... and you end up with a mouthful of one thing."

"I try to use a little bit less than my stomach's asking for," he says.

From the Dagwood's towering layers of meats and cheeses to the humble BLT, Chonko has deconstructed dozens of sandwiches in the book. There are regional specialties (the Fluffernutter is a New England favorite, the po'boy is tied to New Orleans) and favorites from abroad (Vietnam's French-influenced banh mi, the Argentine street food staple the choripan).

Chonko sees contrasts as part of making a sandwich interesting — whether it's the briny, sour pickle set against the slight sweetness of a Cuban sandwich, or the classic salty peanut butter paired with jelly. Contrasting textures make a difference too.

"One of the greatest things a sandwich has going for it is bread," Chonko explains. "You can toast the bread ... and that will go well when you're putting something in there that isn't crunchy. An example of that is the grilled cheese sandwich. You have soft, melted cheese, and around that you have this crunchy shell."

"Scanwiches" is full of sandwiches you may not have heard of. One of Chonko's favorite obscurities is the chivito, a Uruguayan monstrosity that piles melted cheese, bacon, ham, steak, eggs, lettuce and mayonnaise on a roll. "It's a ridiculous sandwich," he says. "It's like a protein-packed, fat dream."

But Chonko isn't passing judgment: "I just want to celebrate the beauty and awesomeness of sandwiches."

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