As Liz Lemon once said on 30 Rock, “I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.” The “sit in peace” part — I’m not so sure about that. But the sandwich part, well, that I can definitely relate to.
Growing up, I was the pickiest of eaters. For the first 12 years of my life, my diet consisted solely of raw fruits and vegetables. But by the time I arrived at college, I was ready to experience all the dining options that Penn and Philadelphia had to offer.
Eating in Philadelphia became as big a part of my experience as the days in Annenberg and the nights at Smokes. What I’ve come to realize is that Philadelphia is a sandwich city. Though the city is undeniably the birthplace of the infamous cheese steak, it also claims credit for the roast pork sandwich and the hoagie.
More than that, the sandwich is a trademark of the Penn experience. It’s a staple. It’s quickly assembled and easy to eat or carry whether we’re running off to class, a club meeting or a party. Nearly everywhere you go, there’s a sandwich to be had.
There are those that come from food trucks, a symbol of life on Penn’s campus and a hallmark of the undergraduate experience. The freshman year stop at Hemo’s as you make your way to the Quadrangle. The hangover special at Bui’s after a rough night out. The long wait at Magic Carpet for a pita with “magic” vegetarian meatballs.
Then there are the staple sandwich shops. Jimmy John’s. Lee’s. Koch’s. Even Wawa. Jimmy John’s delivered to your house or the library during a particularly trying late-night study session. Wawa blurrily ordered at the computer display before wandering the store for late-night munchies. These eats are a symbol of our lives on Penn’s campus, and they’ve been here through all the excitement and obstacles along the way from Flings to finals.
But sometimes, we’re looking for something more. We want to push our limits and step outside our comfort zone. We might make the trek to Chinatown for the Banh Mi at QT Vietnamese or deep into West Philly for the Tofu Hoagie at Fu-Wah Mini Mart. We want to explore. We wander to South Philly for a Gustaio at Paseano’s or to Reading Terminal Market for a Roast Pork at DiNic’s. And we know that those who don’t make the trek along with us are surely missing out.
At the end of the day though, we sometimes want something simple. A grilled cheese made in the kitchen with our friends after a long night out. Or something reliable. A peanut butter sandwich hastily constructed during a study break while multi-tasking.
As Penn students, we crave the familiar and the unknown. Sometimes, we want the easy and sometimes the complex. And sometimes, we just want an adventure. Luckily, we can have it all on a campus like Penn’s and in a city like Philadelphia.
You may laugh at me for reflecting on my college experience through a lens of sandwiches, but tell me that you don’t have these same stories, or at least your own version of them.
“Everyone loves a sandwich,” my best friend once professed to me. “It’s bread with anything you want in the middle.” And I’m learning that she’s right. Because the bottom line is, at the end of the day, a sandwich is whatever you want it to be. So I’ll just say, if we are what we eat, then as we leave this sandwich world that we’ve come to know, we can be anything we want.
Dear readers, thank you so much for taking the time to read my columns. It’s been real, but now I’m off to hang with my friends and eat my sandwich.
Sabrina Benun, a former columnist, is a College senior from Santa Monica, Calif. After graduation, she will work as a college counselor as a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps in New York City.Comments powered by Disqus
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