Published on Jan 6, 2020

Sandwich Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

It is a strange tale, but the sandwich actually came from John Montague, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. A passionate gambler, Montague would often spend days playing cards and fretting his money away in 17th century England. Not willing to leave the table, he often requested his food was served between two pieces of bread for convenience’s sake. As he felt he only needed what would sustain him, his ‘sandwich’ traditionally just contained cheese and meat. Famously he would just continue to play cards in one hand, while he ate with the other. Quickly, this became known as ‘The Sandwich’ and lunchtimes were forever changed.

Still, the Earl can’t take all the credit as Jewish families have long put fruit and cheese in between pieces of flat bread during Passover. Even in the Middle Ages, leftovers were often placed on pieces of stale bread. These were known as trenchers and are essentially the first pizza or open sandwich. However, they were mainly the staple diet of the poor and of the population’s dogs.

Seeing as the Earl’s name is attributed to the food, we are going to give full credit to him!


The sandwich was later popularised in the 1830s with the publication of Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery. Amazingly, it included a recipe on how to ‘make ham sandwiches’. It even described a sandwich as a main course. However, it was the sale of sliced bread that made the sandwich the most popular thing since… well, sliced bread. By the early 1900s, shops began to sell sliced bread and as a result, children started taking sandwiches for their lunch, most commonly filled with eggs and ham.

However, like most food types, it was the Americans that took the sandwich to the next level. While peanut butter and jelly (jam to us Brits) sandwiches have never really taken off on this side of the pond, they were massive State side. First developed by soldiers from the ingredients in their C-Rations, the PB&J sandwich became a staple of children all over the USA. It was even endorsed by Elvis who said that the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich was his favourite.

Fast forward several decades and sandwiches are an industry in their own right. Not just that, but the sheer amount of choice is something the Fourth Earl of Sandwich would have never have considered.

Not only is bread not essential with wraps, tortillas, focaccia, matzo and pitta all decent substitutes, but you can fill them with everything from deli choice cuts to last night’s leftovers.

Countries even have their own ‘national’ sandwich. In the UK, the bacon butty is often regarded as the nation’s favourite, while Australia is credited as giving the world the Steak Sandwich.

No matter your sandwich of choice, the next time you’re tucking into one, think of the Fourth Earl and wonder how rich his family would be if he had patented the idea.

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