Everybody likes a good sandwich, right? Whether it’s a sky-high pile of pastrami between two pieces of fresh rye bread or the wonderful mashup of Vietnamese and French food in a banh mi, the sandwich remains a popular choice for hungry eaters around the world. What most people don’t know is the fascinating history behind the creation of the sandwich. It’s a tale of a British statesman’s gambling, drinking, and laziness and how it led to one of modernity’s favorite foods.
The British statesman who became a food influencer
Back in the 18th century, John Montagu was a British statesman known as the Earl of Sandwich. The Earl was a royal title bestowed on Montagu because of his association with the town of Sandwich, located in the southeast part of England.
Montagu held many offices during his career, but he’s best known for his contribution to the foodie world.
Necessity is the mother of invention
While the exact details of the invention of the sandwich may never be known, one thing’s for certain: the sandwich was named after Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich.
The earl was notorious for gambling and drinking and didn’t want to waste time doing either. So he ordered his attendants to give him a piece of meat between two pieces of bread. He’d eat it at the taverns and gambling houses while he drank and gambled.
The birth of the sandwich
Other cultures have combined meat and bread much earlier than Montagu did. Flatbreads throughout Asia and Africa have been paired with meat for centuries. But as the working class expanded during the Industrial Age, they looked for more inexpensive and portable meals.
The easy accessibility and portability of the sandwich became a favorite of those workers. And when the gamblers and nightlife crowd saw what the Montagu was eating during his frequent trips to the card tables, they began ordering it by saying, “the same as Sandwich!”