How to Make Everything is a YouTube series that describes its mission like so: “to explore everyday things many of us take for granted.” The show finds its host, Andy George, exploring how to make everyday items—a suit, a tool, a Japanese calligraphy brush—from scratch. It finds him being, in other words, a little bit MacGyver, a little bit supply-chain economist, and a little bit philosopher.
The latest episode of How to Make Everything finds George applying his global-trade-networked approach to that most basic and yet most profound of American food items: the sandwich. In this case, a chicken sandwich with cheese. Making the sandwich requires George to, among other things: grow his own vegetables, milk a cow (for the cheese), evaporate ocean water (for the salt), collect his own honey, grow and then grind his own wheat, preserve his own pickles, and slaughter/de-feather/butcher/cook a chicken. The whole thing takes six months, George says, to put together. It ends up costing him $1,500.
The result of all that was a lesson in the complex nature of even the simplest foods, in how easy it can be, in a world of Walmarts, to take our conveniences for granted.
But the result was also, though, an actual, edible food item. So how does a sandwich that costs the amount of a used car end up tasting?
“It’s not bad,” George concludes. “That’s about it. It’s not bad. Six months of my life were … not bad. Yeah.”
At this point in the video, he removes his glasses and puts his head into his hands. There’s a literal head-desk situation. And, there, the video ends.
But: There’s a follow-up video! George also shared his sandwich with a mostly anonymous selection of taste-testers who are very likely members of his family. They gave slightly more detailed assessments of the sandwich.
A guy, probably in his late 20s or early 30s (brother?), concluded that the sandwich “tastes like a cork board dipped in lemon juice.”
An older woman (grandmother?) offered an unconvincing “Mmmmm…”
A younger woman (sister? wife?) maintained contemplative silence as she chewed.
So did a younger man.
So did an older one.
But the kids might have had the most telling reactions to George’s $1,500 foodstuff. A young girl, putting a large, pre-cut bite of the sandwich into her mouth, chews the whole thing dutifully. And then her eyes widen. And then she looks like she has just, for the first time in her life, understood what betrayal tastes like.
A boy, even younger, chews the sandwich briefly, then yells an indecipherable bit of kid-profanity, then reaches into this mouth and removes the offending contents. He then walks to the kitchen, presumably to get a drink to wash away the taste of the sandwich forever.
And that, it seems, is all we need to know about what a $1,500 sandwich tastes like.