Americans eat over 300 million sandwiches a day. This is a pretty hefty figure for the people of the United States because it means that there are as many sandwiches being eaten as there are people to eat them. It is, however, not unreasonable to think why the sandwich is so popular, it is almost the perfect food: it is portable, can be simple or elaborate depending on the mood, and is open to any sort of interpretation. The sandwich actually has a pretty long history, even though most of it did not happen in the United States. The sandwich was, however, seen as a repressive symbol from the colonial past: something that a lot of patriotic Americans might want to forget.
The history of the sandwich begins in England in 1762. Sandwich was a popular city in England and the 4th Earl of the place, John Montagu, is credited with the popularisation of the sandwich. Now a fair warning: this is not a story that is credited in any fictional or historical literature anywhere, but passed on through word of mouth over generations. That being said, here is the story behind the sandwich.
The 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, is believed to have been a gambling addict and led him to spend hours on end at gambling tables. During such a notorious binge, the Earl asked one of his house cooks to bring him something that he could eat without getting up off his chair, and the cook came up with the idea of the sandwich. Montagu loved the combination of meat inside his bread so much that he had at it constantly, and as the story goes, people started associating the name of the meal with the name of the Earl, and hence the sandwich was born.
However, the story doesn’t exactly end there. John Montagu’s nameless cook was not the first person who came up with the idea of the sandwich. In fact, the origin of this idea has been traced back to Turkish and Greek mezze platters, which were served in the Mediterranean where Montagu had visited before. The dish involved dips, meat and cheese all “sandwiched” in between two pieces of bread. So the idea was not new, just that it was popularised by Montagu.
Montagu’s creation quickly became revolutionary, and within a matter of months, a man by the name of Edward Gibbon mentioned the sandwich by name in one of his diary entries. The diary mentioned that Gibbon had seen twenty or thirty of the first men of England eating it at a restaurant. The sandwich was well established in England by the time of the Revolutionary War. However, the sandwich did not reach the United States of America until 1815, when it was seen for the first time in an American cookbook.