Scanwiches: The meaty truth behind the popular sandwich blog
Jon Chonko looks at sandwiches the way a dendrologist might look at tree rings. The density of the bread, the color of the meat . . . you never know what culinary and cultural riches a double-decker Reuben might hold. Then again, maybe he just likes them because of how neat they look.
When Chonko, 24, a designer at Manhattan ad firm thehappycorp global, launched his sandwich picture blog, Scanwiches, less than two months ago, he had a simple concept that he executed even more simply. The site's high-res, close-up scans of halved sandwiches floating against a black sea proved instantly appealing.
"It was going to be a quick little lunch blog to encourage me to eat at new places in the neighborhood, and try different types of sandwiches," Chonko says. "Then it got really popular, and I felt obligated to keep it up."
The site's instant-hit status mirrors the popularity of internet food memes like The Bacon Explosion and This Is Why You're Fat. Just as digital technologies have fueled the growth of independent moviemaking and citizen journalism, affordable digital cameras and scanners have allowed any foodie to become a food pornographer.
Chonko uses his girlfriend's former HP ScanJet 4570C, a consumer-grade, flatbed scanner from 2002, to capture his sandwich halves. He does his scanning at work, where his coworkers and company have been supportive of his endeavors.
"The lid doesn’t close. But scanners have one depth-of-field and one level of exposure. Anything that's not on top of the screen won't show up. We just turn down the lights and scan it. It's pretty straightforward," Chonko says.
A flame of lettuce shoots from a steak sandwich, neon orange carrot shreds spill out of a banh mi. Devoid of context, the sandwiches -- everything from curry chicken and lobster rolls to BLTs and Good Humor ice cream bars -- are a burst of rich color floating in a sea of nothingness. But a sandwich's visual appeal doesn’t automatically or obviously correlate to how it tastes, as Chonko has learned.
"I think there are some really great sandwiches out there that look terrible. Maybe they're really tasty, but they don't have any color in them. And there are lots of sandwiches on Scanwiches that weren't that good but look awesome. I don’t think there's a defined relationship between the two," he says.
So what explains the instant popularity of Scanwiches? "Food on the internet is becoming very popular, especially as people get interested in high-quality foods and specialty grocers. And I think everybody really likes sandwiches. They're one of the first things you learn to make when you're a kid," Chonko says.
Perhaps sandwiches are a reflection of us (our sandwiches, ourselves?): soft and starchy on the outside, chewy in the middle and filled with surprising bursts of crispness and flavor. Or maybe they just look really, really cool.
-- Elina Shatkin