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Did Sandwiches Start in the Street?

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Hey, Sandwi-vores!

If your diet is anything like mine from my younger days, then you understand keeping a strictly sandwich diet—nothing but sandwiches, day after day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner…okay, maybe I wasn’t quite that bad. But, believe me, I ate a lot of sandwiches. Who can avoid the call of sweet, salty, or fresh ingredients between two pieces of bread?

So who invented this functional favorite that we all know and love so much today? The answer is up for a bit of debate. But let me break it down for you. My mouth is watering just writing about these amazing ingredients between bread.

Earl of Sandwich

There’s the more commonly-known origin story of the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu. It is said that this English nobleman of the 1700s is the inventor of the sandwich—an idea that came to him due to his obsession with the gaming table.

Montagu took his card games so seriously that he refused to get up from the table, even just to eat! He took it to such an extreme that he, one day, in 1762, ordered his valet to bring him some roast beef tucked between a couple pieces of bread, giving himself a handheld meal!

As he continued to order this intriguing meal, word spread and people from all over were ordering ingredients to go between bread, “Like in Sandwich,” they’d say. But despite the wide popularization and even naming of this staple meal, Montagu was only reinventing something that had existed for roughly 1700 years.

One Hillel of a Sandwich

Back in the ancient world of the First Century, we find our first record of a meal that describes ingredients placed between two matzohs (an unleavened flatbread part of Jewish cuisine).

Recorded by the famous rabbi, Hillel the Elder, he turned it into an essential part the observation of Passover. He wrote of a concoction of chopped up apples, nuts, spices, and a drizzle of wine that was ‘sandwiched’ between the traditional flatbread. It’s made of some pretty unorthodox ingredients, however, this definitely qualifies as a sandwich. 

Sandwiches of Old

Going back even longer, and shrouded in more mystery, the sandwich seems to have even lesser known origins from street vendors in 200 BC China. It seems these tasty, on-the-go food items called Rou Jia Mo (which loosely translates to English as “Meat Between Bread”) and consists of pork and few select vegetables to complement the taste.  

 We may never know just how long people have been slapping some chunky ingredients between a couple bread slices, but I think we can all agree that we’re glad SOMEBODY invented this wonder of wheat-contained nourishment. Take care of your sandwich cravings today and enjoy whatever kind of sandwich you cook up! As always, thanks for eating errrr—reading!


- John

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