It is time to celebrate one of the world’s most popular foods—the sandwich!
Observed every year on November 3rd, National Sandwich Day is when we honor the spectacularly simple concept of combining two (or more) slices of bread with a filling between them.
A sandwich is portable, convenient and fiercely familiar, ushering up warm memories of childhood picnics and school lunches.
While traditionally the fillings have contained meat or cheese, a sandwich is more delicious (and much more healthful!) when filled with vegetables.
We will share an amazing whole food, plant-based sandwich in a bit, but first, let’s take a look at the history of the sandwich as well as some fascinating facts.
What Is in a Name?
The sandwich is believed to have received its name from the 18th-century English nobleman John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (a city in Kent, England).
Legend has it that Montagu loved to gamble and would spend hours at the card tables.
Because he disliked stopping to eat, he would ask his servants to bring him meat between two slices of bread. He liked this particular form of food because it allowed him to play cards and eat at the same time, without having to use a fork or getting his cards greasy.
Montagu’s friends began to order ‘the same as Sandwich.’
And the sandwich was born.
In fact, Montagu was born on November 3rd which is why National Sandwich Day is celebrated on that date!
The History of the Sandwich
While the sandwich can be traced back to 18th century England, examples of foods similar to the sandwich have existed in many other cultures for centuries.
For example, the ancient Jewish sage Hillel the Elder wrapped meat into a soft matzah (a flat, unleavened bread) during Passover.
In Europe during the Middle Ages, thick slabs of stale bread called ‘trenchers’ were used as plates.
In the Netherlands in the 17th century, beef was cut into thin slices and eaten with sliced bread.
And while the sandwich was initially associated with drinking men who gambled, it slowly began to appear in polite aristocratic circles as an acceptable late-night meal.
During the 19th century, the sandwich’s popularity soared in both Spain and England because of the rise of the industrial society; working classes loved the sandwich because it was a fast, portable and inexpensive way to eat the midday meal.
By 1850, at least 70 street vendors were selling ham sandwiches in London while sandwich bars emerged as a popular form of eating establishment in the Netherlands.
By the 20th century in the United States, the sandwich, which was considered a quick and easy meal, became a staple of the American diet.
Some Fun Facts
Here are some fun facts about the sandwich:
- On any given day, about half of all Americans will eat a sandwich.
- The Wall Street Journal has described the sandwich as Britain’s ‘biggest contribution to gastronomy.’
- Sandwich can be a verb too. ‘To sandwich’ means “to position anything between two other things of a different character, or to place different elements alternately.”
- In 2006, a court in Boston Massachusetts ruled that a sandwich must include at least two slices of bread and, therefore, burritos, tacos and quesadillas cannot be classified as sandwiches.
- Hawaii used to be called ‘The Sandwich Islands,’ named after the very same John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich.
And to celebrate National Sandwich Day in whole food, plant-based style, here is a great recipe for the ultimate Vegan BLTA.