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Sandwich Facts

A sandwich is a food item, typically consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them, or one slice of bread with a topping or toppings, commonly called an open sandwich.  Sandwiches are a widely popular type of lunch food, typically taken to work or school, or picnics to be eaten as part of a packed lunch. 

SandwichThey generally contain a combination of salad vegetables, meat, cheese, and a variety of sauces or savory spreads.  The bread can be used as it is, or it can be coated with any condiments to enhance flavor and texture.  They are widely sold in restaurants and cafes.

History

Bread has been eaten with any meat or vegetables since Neolithic times.  For example, the ancient Jewish sage Hillel the Elder is said to have placed meat from the Paschal lamb and bitter herbs between two pieces of matzah (or flat, unleavened bread) during Passover.  During the Middle Ages, thick slabs of coarse and usually stale bread, called "trenchers", were used as plates.

After a meal, the food-soaked trencher was fed to a dog or to beggars, or eaten by the diner. Trenchers were the precursors of open-face sandwiches. The immediate cultural precursor with a direct connection to the English sandwich was to be found in the Netherlands of the 17th century, where the naturalist John Ray observed that in the taverns beef hung from the rafters "which they cut into thin slices and eat with bread and butter laying the slices upon the butter" - explanatory specifications that reveal the Dutch belegde broodje was as yet unfamiliar in England.

Initially perceived as food men shared while gaming and drinking at night, the sandwich slowly began appearing in polite society as a late-night meal among the aristocracy.  The sandwich's popularity in Spain and England increased dramatically during the 19th century, when the rise of an industrial society and the working classes made fast, portable, and inexpensive meals essential.

It was at the same time that the sandwich finally began to appear outside of Europe. In the United States, the sandwich was first promoted as an elaborate meal at supper. By the early 20th century, as bread became a staple of the United States diet, the sandwich became the same kind of popular, quick meal as was widespread in the Mediterranean.

Etymology

The first written usage of the English word appeared in Edward Gibbon's journal, in longhand, referring to "bits of cold meat" as a 'Sandwich'. It was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat, although he was neither the inventor nor sustainer of the food.

It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and because Montagu also happened to be the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, others began to order "the same as Sandwich!" It is said that Lord Sandwich was fond of this form of food because it allowed him to continue playing cards, particularly cribbage, while eating without getting his cards greasy from eating meat with his bare hands.

The rumor in its familiar form appeared in Pierre-Jean Grosley's Londres (Neichatel, 1770), translated as A Tour to London 1772; Grosley's impressions had been formed during a year in London, 1765. The sober alternative is provided by Sandwich's biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who suggests Sandwich's commitments to the navy, to politics and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his desk.

Usage

The term sandwich is occasionally used (informally) in reference to open-faced sandwiches; these normally consist of a single slice of bread topped with meat, salad vegetables, and various condiments.  These differ from a normal sandwich in that they have a single slice of bread instead of two, with toppings instead of a filling. 

The open-faced sandwich also has a history differing from that of the true sandwich, having originated between the 6th and 16th centuries, with stale slices of bread used as plates called "Trenchers" (whereas its relative, the modern sandwich, traces its roots to the Earl of Sandwich instead).

In the United States, a court in Boston, Massachusetts ruled that "sandwich" includes at least two slices of bread. and "under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term "sandwich" is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans."

The issue was whether a restaurant which sold burritos could move into a shopping center where another restaurant had a no-compete clause in its lease prohibiting other "sandwich" shops.

In Spain, where the word sandwich is borrowed from the English language, it refers to a food item made with English sandwich bread.

The verb to sandwich has the meaning to position anything between two other things of a different character, or to place different elements alternately, and the noun sandwich has related meanings derived from this more general definition. For example, an ice cream sandwich consists of a layer of ice cream between two layers of cake or cookie. Similarly, Oreos and Custard Creams are described as sandwich cookies because they consist of a soft filling between layers of cookie.

The word "butty" is often used in Northern areas of the United Kingdom as a synonym for "sandwich," particularly in the name of certain kinds of sandwiches such as a chip butty, bacon butty, or sausage butty.  "Sarnie" is a similar colloquialism, as is the Australian English colloquialism "sanger".

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