Sandwiches are for gamblers. If the popular origin story of the sandwich is true, John Montagu - the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, no less - was such an avid gambler that he could not bear to put down his cards even for a moment to eat, so he took to assembling the various components of his dinner in a stack and eating them one-handed.
That's how the Earl came to put some filling between two slices of bread. He was not the first; in fact, other cultures combined bread and other ingredients in similar ways centuries before the Earl got peckish around the card table in the 1760s.
But he did make it popular, as his gambling companions started to ask for "the same as Sandwich". We paraphrase, but you get the idea. Another version of the story suggests that Montagu was a workaholic rather than obsessive gambler, but the resulting meal is the same. The card story sounds better.
What does any of this have to do with motoring? Plenty. These days, sandwiches are ideal sustenance for the hungry driver and service stations compete for business as much on the strength of the food they serve as they do on fuel.
Fact is, finding a good sandwich when you're out on the road is a real gamble. Hard work.
So we set out to discover which is the best service station chain to fill up your car, and then fill up on a really good sandwich.
We're talking chicken here. Just like any good car comparison, the contenders are not identical: we went looking for the most interesting takes on a similar theme, looking under the bonnet - well, the top bit of bread - weighing up the options and really trying them out.
We sampled sandwiches from four big outlets: BP Wild Bean, Caltex Fix, Mobil On the Run and Z. No Gull? Not for want of trying, but we found Gull's Night 'N Day food franchises tend more towards home-made-style rolls and hot takeaway food than neatly packaged triangles. Nothing wrong with that, but truly portable/packaged sandwiches are the focus for us here. Neat triangles or no deal.
All sandwiches were purchased in the hour leading up to midday on a sunny Saturday, at large outlets within 20km of each other in Auckland.
Badge-engineering drives the sandwich business as much as the automotive industry. All but one of our Saturday snacks were made by the same company, Naturezone Foods in Penrose, Auckland.
But we did examine and eat and we do have a winner. Here are the contenders, from first to last.
BP WILD BEAN
Chicken, Bacon, Rosemary, Mayo & Parsley on Wholesome 9 Grain Bread, $6, 114g of chicken.
Wild Bean had the best variety of food by far. Despite the long-winded description and complete lack of greenery (some may consider that a plus), this one caught our eye as a chicken sandwich with a little sophistication. Nicely presented, ingredients well-blended and quality bread. Ostensibly the most chicken of the group, although the Wild Bean product gets a small advantage in density because the ingredients are finely cut and blended with mayonnaise.
But easily the winner on presentation, quality and taste. Enjoy.
Chicken Mayonnaise Gourmet Sandwich, $5.90, 68g of chicken.
This is more your classic chicken sandwich, with large chunks of poultry, a smattering of mayonnaise and a nice layer of leaves. Unadventurous but enjoyable, especially as the greenery looked impressively fresh and the mayonnaise was not overbearing.
MOBIL ON THE RUN
Chicken Mayo Classic, $6.49, 60g of chicken.
See above: as we said, 75 per cent of these sandwiches come from the same supplier. In this case, packaging aside, we're talking about the very same sandwich that we purchased from Caltex.
Absolutely no discernable difference between the two.
That's no bad thing, because it's quite tasty in a classic kind of way (it even says so on the label). However, points off Mobil for charging 59c more for the same product.
Chicken, Brie & Cranberry, $5.90, 76g of chicken.
Ambitious move from Z here, with a festive flavour. Perhaps better in theory than practice though: more chicken than the Caltex or Mobil products, but overwhelmed by the cranberry sauce (granted, that might be a matter of taste).
Bettered only by BP for the texture of its bread, but the Z sandwich suffered from suspect build quality: in particular, the brie covered only a portion of the total bread area - nearly half the meal was cheeseless, which is deeply disappointing. The leaves also lacked bounce and colour.