As the obsession with all things artisanal continues to spread throughout the food world, one group of artists in Amsterdam decided to push the quest for an artisanal ham and cheese sandwich as far as it could go.

“De Tosti Fabriek” (“The Sandwich Factory”) wanted to make the iconic Dutch sandwich, the tosti—a simple grilled sandwich of bread, ham, and cheese. But they wanted to make it from scratch.

sandwich factory sandwich

We’re not just talking about buying ingredients from a store, then baking a loaf of bread, smoking and curing a butcher-prepped ham, or using one of those trendy cheese-making kits you can find at Williams-Sonoma.

sandwich factory bread

The Sandwich Factory decided to work with sandwich elements, instead. FastCoExist reports that they sowed a field of wheat in central Amsterdam in February 2013.

sandwich factory ham

They also put up a barn, into which they moved a pair of pigs.

sandwich factory cheese

They brought a pair of cows to join the pigs. Pairs were important to the Sandwich Factory project, so the animals could keep each other company and wouldn’t be lonely.

sandwich factory working

How long did the Sandwich Factory have to wait before they could have their tosti?

sandwich factory days

Even if you don’t read Dutch, your instincts are right. “Dagen” means days. That means it took 181 days for ham, 89 days for cheese, and 177 days to grow sufficient wheat to mill into flour and bake some bread.

FastCoExist reports that 20 volunteers maintained the farm, mucking out stalls, tending to animals, and tending to their little wheat field. In the end, the project cost 35,000 EUR ($44K USD).

sandwich factory finished tosti

The yield after all this work was just 350 sandwiches. The team estimates that each sandwich took about $20 of raw materials to produce.

The team of artists wanted to make people think more deeply about food, even simple things like sandwiches that we all take for granted. They even invited local school kids to come check out the farm, since it’s something most kids growing up in the city would never have experienced before.

Team member Tjebbe Tjebbes reminisced about a great moment with FastCoExist:

“We had this fantastic moment on Dutch television where a lady from the neighborhood was interviewed and said, ‘I’m completely against it because my kids are going there now, and what am I going to tell them the next time we have a barbecue? They’re going to ask all of these difficult questions. Of course, she proved our entire point. This wasn’t just for us. If her kids were going to ask difficult questions, then good for them.”

The project prompted new ways of thinking for the artistic team, as well. Project founder Sascha Landshoff told FastCoExist,

“It’s not only about the most ecological, local food, you also need a certain amount of efficiency to feed everyone on the planet. That’s what our new project will be about–how do you find the balance between local food and good food but also produce it in an efficient way.”

[via FastCoExist, De Tosti Fabriek]