Sandwich

The Simple Tomato Sandwich That Stirred Up Some Controversy

August  9, 2016

Last week, I spied a bit of rabble-rousing on Twitter: criticism over a tartine recipe featured on a highly-popular lifestyle blog.

The sandwich in question is three ingredients—bread, hummus, tomato—and requires almost no methodology: Toast bread, spread hummus, lay down tomato slices, top with basil, salt, pepper. Maybe, given the ingredients, someone would figure out how to make it on her own.

It was a combination of the snack's simplicity in conjunction with the lack of comments on the blog pointing out that simplicity that drew some backlash. Tweets like...

the cult of this particular blogger is so strong that there is not a SINGLE comment saying "um, this is just hummus & tomato on toast"

and

Optimistically, I thought she would at least offer a recipe for homemade hummus... but not even?! What is this twilight zone

and

why didn't they break down "how to cut tomato" and "how to spread hummus" for those of us for whom three ingredients is TOO MANY!

Was it really the sandwich's straightforwardness that perturbed, or was it the claims—that this is a "recipe" for a "tartine"—that annoyed people? If it had been written as an idea or an outline (more like a Not(Recipe), let's say) would it have gone unnoticed? Must a combination of ingredients hit some undetermined marks of complexity and creativity to earn the title of "recipe"? And who determines those standards?

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First, let's be fair to the blogger. It's not her recipe—it's republished, with permission, from a book that's intended for—and marketed as—time-saving strategies for stress-free cooking. Second, she writes explicitly that she's sharing the sandwich because it's her "on a normal day. Chickpeas. Target. Mom stuff." Neither the blogger nor the recipe writer make claims this open-faced sandwich is innovative.

The tomato sandwich flak reminded me of the feedback on Kenzi's avocado and egg tacos: Some readers were entertained by the idea that someone was getting paid to write about a meal that a 5-year-old could make; one said that it was "like reading an article by someone who thinks they invented toast."

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Top Comment:
“While I agree with those that are amazed that this tomato sandwich is such a big deal and maybe a recipe and maybe not - oh! it is a tartine, , I find it even more interesting (amusing?) that anyone would go to such lengths to defend it. And please don't demean our intelligence by saying some people don't know how to make a sandwich. I agree with whoever said it is two piece of bread with something hopefully tasty in between. If they can figure out a smart phone or computer, they can make a fricking sandwich. ”
— Helen S.
Comment

All of this makes me wonder if there's a place for the everyday in cookbooks and food writing and lifestyle blogging. Why do some, like chefs who charge a premium for sliced figs, get to claim simplicity as purity while others are called out for silliness for putting a peak-season tomato on a hummus-smeared piece of bread?

Can a three-ingredient sandwich be called a recipe?

What's more snooty: to criticize someone for featuring a super simple, been-there-done-that "recipe" or to assume that the ingredient or flavor combination is well-known to everyone under the sun? How do you know when something is obvious to just you or to the world? And if the way the food is prepared or put together is inspiring or exciting or even day-brightening to one person, does it add value?

I do think it's important that there be enough self-awareness to know when a simple "recipe" (or idea, or outline) is not a revelatory invention (this blogger checks off that box)—and especially when it's existed elsewhere for decades, even centuries.

Still, there's room for both: for the wildly creative, the mind-bogglingly new, the fancifully inventive and for the everyday, the make-in-five-minutes, the feed-the-hungry-kids. Because while something might be old news to you, that might not be true for everyone; and, maybe seeing an easy-but-delicious combination gives a reader permission to play more in the kitchen—or permission to mix together something actually easy for dinner, to forgive herself for not being a capital C Cook all of the time, to find more delight and less solemnity in putting food on the table.

In that vein, here are some of our most basic (in a good way) recipes. Mock them as you see fit.

Does it annoy/offend/disturb you that a three-ingredient sandwich is a "tartine recipe"? Tell us in the comments below!

73 Comments

Sauertea August 20, 2016
I also loved the egg and avocado tacos! Great for gym night dinner!<br />
 
Sauertea August 20, 2016
What we seek is inspirations. Many times the simplest things are the best. We step back and see new things! Not everything needs to be complicated and time consuming. Sometimes I just want to relax with a nice glass of wine and this sandwich would go well with a soft summer night
 
Maggie August 17, 2016
I've seen one-ingredient ice cream posted as a recipe ... Sometimes it's just an idea or an inspiration, and sometimes people are overly critical.
 
Joan August 15, 2016
Maybe, if I knew what a Tartine recipe was. <br /><br />But like this comment, sometimes it's fun to be witty and write whatever snide thing comes into your head.
 
Joan August 15, 2016
Maybe, if I knew what a Tartine recipe was. <br /><br />But like this comment, sometimes it's fun to be witty and write whatever snide thing comes into your head.
 
Betty August 15, 2016
I just wanted to add that I personally have no problem with simple recipes - I am frequently looking for new ideas, not for complicated recipes. Thanks for the interesting article.
 
Kay C. August 14, 2016
Speaking of swapping out hummus for mayo, I did that last summer to make a hummus-egg salad. Hummus and hard boiled egg, whether you consider it a "recipe" or not, it sure was tasty, and seemed like a new idea to me.
 
Mph August 14, 2016
My favorite sandwiches are made of 3 ingredients: BLT and PB&J. Forever thankful for whoever cane up with those recipes:)
 
Maggie August 17, 2016
YASSSSSSSS.
 
Helen S. August 14, 2016
Bravo Lydia!
 
lydia.sugarman August 14, 2016
The original post is about a tomato sandwich using two slices of toasted bread, mayo, and tomato with salt and pepper. It must have been a "slow news day" to publish that in the first place. Really! <br /><br />Where'd the hummus come in to the discussion? And, who decided to call it a 'tartine?' Food52 is a US-based business, so using the word 'tartine' becomes pretentious, too precious.<br /><br />Yes, it's a recipe. Did it ever deserve to even be published? That's questionable. <br /><br />I loved the original Food52. In recent years, it has, IMO, become too pretentious and precious. I've met both founders and they are lovely, down-to-earth women, but their "start-up" no longer fits that description. And, that I think is the real bone of contention in this debate.
 
Radish August 15, 2016
I personally disagree here with your questioning this as a recipe because only this summer my adultish grandchildren were served this and were in awe of a tomato sandwich. However, I do heartily agree with you on the controversy. This blog has changed and I told them so. Now I feel the food is less important than the products. Now it feels like it is written by and for young, adult New Yorkers.
 
Sophie August 16, 2016
Are you trying to say "precocious"? <br />
 
Sophie August 16, 2016
Are you trying to say "precocious"? <br />
 
Liebchen September 13, 2016
The original recipe wasn't published on Food52, but was published on another blog, so the criticism of Food52 for calling something a "tartine" is misplaced (and that's why you can't find the hummus in the other tomato sandwich recipe linked above).
 
Susan R. August 14, 2016
I feel that I'm adventurous with food & I like to try a lot of things. However I also appreciate the simple pleasures. Tomato, mayo & white bread is one of my favorite things. I have never in my life thought to swap the mayo for hummus on this sandwich. So for me, it's a bit of a revelation. 3 simple ingredients...yes a new TO ME recipe! In my opinion food blogging is like a journal of eating. We are just sharing what comes across our plate. If the snobs out there don't like that then they should do their own blogging & lets see if they have totally original ideas. To be honest I can't imagine that any "new" recipe out there hasn't already been tried by someone else. But eating its like traveling, you may be visiting places and foods known since the inception of time, but there is always something new for you to personally discover.
 
Teresa August 14, 2016
Thank you. I for one had never tried this recipe. And in today's society where people get offended if you smile in their direction, I wouldn't even take a second to think about why. Self righteous unhappy people will always take the opportunity to hide behind their keyboard and be bullies! I for one like to change it up in the hot summer ( 114' here today) and enjoy a good tartine and a cold soup. So job well done and please keep them coming.
 
jccampb August 14, 2016
tomato sandwich = fresh bread, + mayo + slices of Vidalia onion + sliced hierloom tomato grown in your own garden<br />end of statement.. as Firesign theater once said.... "a point in every direction, is the same as having no point at all'
 
Penny H. August 14, 2016
I'm all for three ingredient recipes. There are way too many seventeen ingredient recipes floating around that no one has the time, energy or money to get all the ingredients, much less make the recipe.
 
carol S. August 14, 2016
especially in august, when tomatoes are a sign of god's love for us...any way to eat them should be celebrated! we should be reminded of the possibles that exist with food, simple to complicated.<br />
 
lissa R. August 14, 2016
I think it's important to be reminded that eating well needn't cost much in time or money, to take advantage of a small sliver of time when a food is at it's best. I still see people in grocery stores picking up orange, rock hard tomatoes & peaches when the farmers market is a five minute drive away.<br />Favorite lunch in July & August - tomato, mayo on toast with a peach for dessert, juice running down my chin.
 
Jan August 14, 2016
I enjoy simple "recipes" from time to time. Is it something that I could have figured out on my own? Maybe, but maybe not. And even if I had already figured it out, it is nice to be reminded of the idea as it may not have occurred to me lately. I don't have time during my routine life to sit and dwell upon what to make for most meals and I appreciate opening up an email and seeing a good, solid, simple idea that I can just run with. If people don't find the content of an email subscription to be worthwhile, then they should just unsubscribe.
 
Anja August 14, 2016
I had to look up 'tartine', and learned it was an open-faced sandwich. Vocabulary enhancement, bonus!<br />When I discovered toast slathered with mayo covered with sliced tomato just picked from the garden, it was a revelation. I came up with it on my own, but if only someone had only told me how good it was earlier....
 
jbrr August 14, 2016
I don't mind this being called a 'recipe'. I don't follow recipes anyway. :) They're always more of 'suggestions' to me. And I find this far more appealing then those recipes that consist of opening 5 cans of goop, mixing them together and calling that 'cooking'.
 
Helen S. August 14, 2016
While I agree with those that are amazed that this tomato sandwich is such a big deal and maybe a recipe and maybe not - oh! it is a tartine, , I find it even more interesting (amusing?) that anyone would go to such lengths to defend it. And please don't demean our intelligence by saying some people don't know how to make a sandwich. I agree with whoever said it is two piece of bread with something hopefully tasty in between. If they can figure out a smart phone or computer, they can make a fricking sandwich.
 
X August 14, 2016
Thanks for saying exactly what I was thinking. You saved me the time of posting my own lengthy comment. I would like to say that I'm amazed that a tomato sandwich--excuse me--"tartine" (lol--spell check on my tablet won't even allow me to type the word, it changed it 3 times) can be so pretentious.