National Sandwich Day
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One of the questions I often ask when getting to know someone is, “what meal would you pick if you could only eat the same thing for the rest of your life”. A clever 9-year-old student once answered “A sandwich! Because then it would still be a sandwich, but you wouldn’t ever have to eat the same thing twice!” Today, we honor that answer with the history of a few of our office’s favorite sandwiches on National Sandwich Day!
We’ll start our culinary adventure with the name “The Sandwich.” Meat between bread is a tale as old as meat and bread. However, the naming credit most often goes to the 4th Earl of Sandwich. The Earl had a gambling problem and didn’t want to stop to eat. His cook put his evening meat in between two slices of toast, and the meal became colloquially known as “The Sandwich.”
The Italian Sub
In what we will call a “widely accepted local legend,” the story begins in Portland, Maine in 1899. Italian bakery owner, Giovanni Amato created a sandwich to serve as an easily consumed and portable meal for the local road construction workers. Comprised of different meats, cheeses, vegetables, and salad oil on a long roll, the locals bestowed the moniker, “An Italian.”
Benny and Clovis Martin were streetcar conductors in New Orleans who opened up their own restaurant in 1922. One of their signature dishes was a loaf of bread filled with just about anything, from roast beef to oysters. In 1929, the Electric Street Railway employees went on strike. The Martin brothers vowed to feed the striking workers for free and created a sandwich comprised of fried potatoes, gravy, and spare bits of roast beef on French bread. When a worker would stop by for a meal, Benny would tell Clovis, “here comes another poor boy.”
The hamburger has been such a part of the sandwich history, it’s almost impossible to tell where it actually began. However, in 18th century Hamburg, Germany, it was popular among the lower classes to shred and season low-grade beef. This dish earned the sobriquet “Hamburg Steak.” Once immigrants arrived in America it isn’t hard to see how the inexpensive dish found its way to bread, onions, and cheese. And it’s rather easy to see how, linguistically, the “Hamburg Steak” became the “Hamburger.” Despite several claims to the throne of originality, I personally think the invention of the hamburger belongs to the people.
The Breakfast Sandwich
The breakfast sandwich is one of my personal favorites. I’ve put eggs and bacon on just about any bread known to man. But the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had still goes to that foggy London street vendor one morning in 2001. The epicenter of the breakfast sandwich origin, if you ever get the chance to order a breakfast bap, treat yourself. Widely regarded as having come into fruition in the 1800s for factory workers to pick up on the way to their shift, the British bap almost feels created solely to be the vessel for breakfast fodder. Whether it’s loaded with all the accouterments, or just basted in sausage grease, the breakfast bap was the first of its kind, and in my humble opinion, still the best!