History Of Sandwich: The Lunch Favourite Was Named After The Earl Of Sandwich
Image Credit: Pixabay. Did you know that the sandwich was named after the Earl of Sandwich?

Be it ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, sandwiches have delighted people for years. An easy lunch to prepare and to pack, the sandwich has been a food prized for both taste and convenience. It is best enjoyed with sauces like ketchup or mustard, a side of potato chips and a refreshing beverage like cold coffee. A common fixture in children’s lunchboxes and at adults’ desks, the humble sandwich has an interesting history. 

Since the 18th century in Europe, the word ‘sandwich’ has been used to describe different ingredients like meat and cheese that are arranged in between slices of bread. The first written record of the word ‘sandwich’ was found in Edward Gibbon’s journal, where he described a sandwich as ‘bits of cold meat’. In A Tour to London, Or, New Observations on England and its Inhabitants, French writer Pierre-Jean Grosley referred to the sandwich as the preparation that is well known today. 

Sandwiches were first popularised by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (an aristocrat), in England in 1762. It is believed that Montagu was addicted to gambling, which led him to spend many hours at the card table. He didn’t want to get up from his seat and so he asked the house cook to make him something that he could eat without having to leave the table, without using a fork. He wanted to ensure that his playing cards were clean and not greasy. This is what led to the invention of the sandwich. Montagu enjoyed this combination of bread and meat that his cook created so much that he ate it very often. Slowly, the sandwich came to be well known in London circles. However, sandwich recipes only appeared in American cookbooks in 1815.

Montagu’s cook wasn’t the first person to think of using fillings between slices of bread. Cooks in Greece and Turkey (countries where mezze platters were omnipresent) often “sandwiched” dips, cheeses, and meats between layers of bread. The story goes that these inspired Montagu’s cook. 

These days, the sandwich can be seen in many forms that range from toasties and sloppy Joes to hoagies and even ice cream sandwiches. Whole restaurant chains dedicated to sandwiches have cropped up. The word sandwich has begun to be used to describe not just fillings pressed between two slices of bread, but also bread with toppings placed on it (these are called open sandwiches). 

Contrary to popular perception, sandwiches aren’t just reserved for the Western world. Even East Asian countries have their own version of the sandwich—like bahn mi (a sliced baguette filled with meat and pickled vegetables) in Vietnam. India has its own sandwiches too, in the form of the Bombay sandwich and snacks like vada pav. The Middle East also makes its own sandwiches, like the Israeli sabich (pita stuffed with fried aubergines, eggs and salad). All these versions of the sandwich have one thing in common: they’re packed with flavour and pay homage to the original, albeit using different ingredients.