In Celebration of the Sandwich

                                                                                           by John Hartley

Perhaps we should salute the humble sandwich because it is 250 years old this year. Its origins reflect on John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. It should be said that Sandwich is a town in its own right and is situated on the coast of Kent in South East England. The real meaning of “Sandwich” is “a place on the sand”.


We return to John Montagu who was dedicated to playing card games and did not wish to be disturbed at set meals at the dinner table. To save interruption he would ask his butler to bring him a slice of beef between two slices of bread to save stopping the game.


Montagu (1718-1792) was a significant statesman holding high office in the Navy and in politics. The circumstances of naming his preference for a slice of beef between two slices of bread came about because his fellow card players asked the butler to bring them the same as Earl Sandwich and hence the derivation for the snack was born. Since Earl Sandwich was a Navy man he was known to consume food without knife and fork when working at his desk.


It was the Earl of Sandwich who funded Captain Cook’s exploration of the Pacific Ocean and as a result in 1778 discovered and named the Sandwich Islands. Today we know them as Hawaii.


The humble sandwich has developed into a substantial industry in the United Kingdom. British consumers eat 11.5 billion sandwiches a year. About half would have been home made and the other half obtained in supermarkets and cafes. For those customers who eat sandwiches in style and take tea and cakes as well – then the place to go is to reserve a table at the Ritz in London. The favourite filling is cold meat, followed by hard cheese (probably Cheddar). The average sandwich bought in a retail outlet is close to £2 with a sealed package containing two slices. The most expensive sandwich was made by Tom Bridge. It was called the Lancaster Cheese Sandwich which was sold by auction on eBay for £345 about six years ago. Within his recipe were white Umbrian truffles which cost £1700 for a kilo.


About 25 years ago the voluntary organisations in Coventry combined their forces to carry the world’s longest sandwich for about 10 km to an exhibition. This was about 200 metres long and the event qualified for an entry into the Guinness Book of Records. This achievement was however short lived and was frequently beaten. In 2010 a sandwich was made in Dubai which was 2.667 kilometres long. The sandwich

contained rare and expensive ostrich meat. It was devoured by the local Iranian workers who were being encouraged to eat more healthy food. For all the achievement it has to be said that in Dubai they did not have to carry the sandwich whereas in Coventry our sandwich had to be carried unbroken for 10 km along the route we had collectors who were taking up donation for charity – quite a different project.


In these days of economic stress it is pleasing to note that the delicious industry employs 300,000 people.


Long Live the Sandwich


#143 Parkway Vol.28 No.1 January-March 143