A boy eating a sandwich, circa 1945
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November 3, 2014 7:00 AM EST

The table of contents of TIME’s 1986 “What America Does Best” special issue starts off with a list of a few of those things. First on that list, naturally, is sandwiches.

Any sandwich fan — and we are surely legion, as Monday is National Sandwich Day — knows why the humble bread-based meal deserves such pride of place. For any doubters, food critic Mimi Sheraton provided an accompanying essay explaining just why the sandwich is so important. Feelings about sandwiches run strong, she writes, but no other food is so capable of holding the meaning of America between its starchy sides:

Sandwiches are an “almost-taken-for-granted favorite,” Sheraton concludes, but there’s no reason not to start appreciating them now.

Read the full essay here: Eating From Hand to Mouth

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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