Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ultimate Sandwich Contest

The MANDA English Club Ultimate Sandwich Contest, an infamously brutal culinary competition, is always held on Friday 12/2/2011.  The infrequency of that date makes it an exceedingly rare (and therefore highly prestigious) event.  As luck would have it, the only Friday 12/2/2011 since humans invented calendars happened to fall during my stay in Indonesia.

Teams of gladiators battling it out in the colloseum (read: masjid)
My Bahasa II kids and the eventual co-champs
The premise was simple.  Ten teams of two to four students competed to make a sandwich that was equal parts tasty, well-structured, creative, and attractive.   Each team had to make one sandwich for judging and at least three sandwiches for the entire English club to peck at.   There were four judges: Ms. Ani (English teacher), Ms. Eti (English teacher + head of English club), Mr. Bogi (school tech guy with decent skills in English), and yours truly (obviously).    Each group’s official sandwich was evaluated by three of the four judges.  Each judge filled out a rubric for every sandwich they tried.  More or less, teams were scored by three different judges from 1 to 5 in the categories of Taste, Structure, Creativity, and Presentation.  The team with the most total points would be declared the victor.  

 I started them off with a quick demonstration of how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I don’t think it helped them much to understand about sandwiches, but they were amused when I ate it with relish—the feeling, not the condiment.   I’m fairly sure they were grossed out by the combination.  Most of these kids have never had a sandwich in their lives.  I was impressed, amused, and occasionally horrified by their creations.  The sandwich (not pictured for the sake of decency) that I found strangest was also the first one I tasted.  I think the inventors just slapped together everything they have ever associated with bread:  lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, chocolate spread, sprinkles, cheese, hot sauce, chili peppers, and some kind of beef.  At least the structure was solid. 

Filling out a scorecard
 You can always count on Indonesians to give you good presentation, which is one reason I made it a judging criterion.  I anticipated that their lack of experience in blending tastes would need a fairly heavy counterweight.  They certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard.  One of the sandwiches even had a flag in it!  One small hiccup came when they actually put sauces or cheese on the outside of the bread as garnish.  This made handling the sandwiches a bit icky.  Total rookie mistake, no big deal.

I love how in this country it’s no issue if kids bring ingredients from home to give to everyone else.  I remember at my high school you couldn’t give food to classmates that wasn’t store-bought.  I also love that it’s not an issue when kids all bring big freakin’ knives to school to carve pumpkins or cut vegetables for a sandwich contest.  After at least a half hour of preparation, the judges began the tasting.  It was great!  The kids were so excited and nervous.  Some brought drinks to offer the judges too.  Oh, here, have a sip of Fanta, sir!  Please, eat the whole sandwich!  And even though not every sandwich tasted great, they were all made with great care and attention.  Also, there were some that tasted really good under the masking hot sauce taste. We had each team make a list of the ingredients in English.

Patriotic Sandwich
I was the only judge to try all ten sandwiches (how could I not?).  After tallying up the scores, there was a tie.  Two groups got a total of 54 out of 60 possible points!  We had to go back to the ultra-slow printer in the teacher’s room to print out four more high-quality certificates for the winners.  Each member of the winning teams was given a sweet certificate that granted them the title of SANDWICH SUPERSTAR.  We printed them on cardstock, and they had a date and signatures of the Head Sandwich Judge (me) and the boss of English Club (Ms. Eti).  The champs were thrilled. 

And so was I, because this was a really awesome activity.  There had been some buzz in the school about it beforehand, and at least as many people stopped by to watch as took part in the event.  Lots of teachers came around and many, many curious students.  In the 30 or 40 minutes that the judges were milling around trying, and especially toward the end, the kids were enjoying themselves making and eating a bunch of sandwiches and trying the creations of other groups.  English Club has been rockin’ since we elected officers and took a lot of the pressure off of me.  Now I have a team of people to consult with and they can tell me what THEY want to do and be largely responsible for arranging it.  It’s way better and way more sustainable now that I’m not the person holding it all together.  Next semester is gonna get even better!

Ladies and Gentleman: Your Sandwich Superstars
Maybe next year we'll play Sandwich Survivor so as to avoid any ties.  But these girls earned it.

Things I would do differently next time:  In the run-up, announce the judging criteria.  Perhaps offer a session the week before to instruct the kids on the basics of making sandwiches, like what ingredients go well together.  We could even spend a full meeting of the English Club on this.  We could discuss classic sandwiches and how to make them.  I'm not much of a cook and I'm not the most creative person with food, so this isn't actually the thing I'm best suited for, but I'm sure other volunteers could do an amazing job with this.  This could be made into a much bigger event.  We could even do a competition between schools, or make it one event in a larger competition that includes the normal run of speeches and performances.

No comments:

Post a Comment