The Sporkful | Podcast Review | October 22, 2015 | By

The Sporkful: “Do Places Make Smaller Sandwiches For Women?”

Are women getting “Equal pay for equal pastrami”? Dan Pashman makes an effort to discover the answer, this week on a special investigative episode of The Sporkful.

After a listener poses the question, do women get served smaller sized sandwiches, Dan Pashman is off to the streets of New York to find out. Are women getting “Equal pay for equal pastrami”? Dan Pashman makes an effort to discover the answer this week on a special investigative episode of The Sporkful.

Dan wants to “make this as scientific as we’re able.”Pashman and his sidekick for the day, Slate’s Laura “L.V.” Anderson, come up with a few ground rules. First, the sandwich creator must see the person that they’re making the sandwich for. Second, both Dan and Laura must order the same sandwich at slightly different times. Those are more or less the only rules. That, and they have to interview the sandwich makers afterwards.

Before you get your statistics hats on, I’ll give you a warning: this episode is not some outrageously detailed Moneyball analysis of sandwiches. I could write 500 words about just making this a more scientific study, 1 but that would completely ignore the fact that on The Sporkful we’re more interested in the psychology of the sandwich makers themselves. How are they evaluating the customers that come through the door? And if they treat any group differently, why do they do it?

When interviewing one of the workers at Choza, a local Mexican-style restaurant I’ve actually frequented myself, 2Dan and Laura are told that its not uncommon for men to get larger servings. In fact, a Choza coworker just last week did this, much to the shock of Laura.

Most of the people making the sandwiches agree though, everyone should be served the same sized sandwich, regardless of gender. It may have helped that they were being interviewed by a podcast that has thousands of weekly listeners, but, again, we aren’t here to question proper sampling and hypothesis-testing procedures.

Like most Sporkful episodes, it’s more about the spirit of the overall topic. The goal is to get you thinking, and I was surprised where it led me. While I fully support equality between men and women, somehow having women receive slightly smaller sandwiches didn’t really bother me. And I think it’s actually because I’m overanalyzing it.

I tend to think that people that are making these sandwiches aren’t just evaluating gender, but a whole slew of variables. Laura and Dan discuss this briefly, but I wish they had explored it more. What other factors go into how large a sandwich should be for someone? Age? Height? Weight? Clothing? Time of Day? Should any factors affect whether sandwich size is different?

I’m not sure what the correct answer is to these questions—or if there even is one.

Eventually, Dan and Laura bring their handful of sandwiches back to the WNYC offices and weigh them in the mail room. The commentary from the lady that runs the show in the mail room adds a nice comedic element to this episode’s sometimes too-serious tone. I won’t spoil the results of Dan’s “scientific” analysis, but based on their sample size of 5 sandwiches each, you can imagine how statistically significant the outcome is.

I think the general size of the customer may have as much of an effect as gender . An NFL left tackle 3 will likely be served more food than someone that has a similar stature to say, Tom Cruise. As a percentage of their body weight—and overall caloric needs—they would actually be getting less if they were served an equal amount. One solution would be to have precise measurement for every sandwich, but that would take the human element out of the culinary process.

Dan emphasizes this point, arguing that making sandwiches, or any food, can be as much an art as a science. No one wants their bartenders carefully measuring each drink ingredient in a cocktail. You want your own special snowflake that’s unique. But he reiterates that you better not shortchange the ladies.




  1. Ok down below I write a few words about it. ^
  2. The portions are massive for everyone, so there’s tons of room for variability among customers. ^
  3. All about the sport’s movie references. ^

About the Author

Nick Wade is a founding writer at Audiologue, where he writes about The Sporkful and Stuff  You Should Know. You can find him at

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