A sandwich in the strictest sense is the name given to a popular food item consisting of one or more fillings (such as meat, cheese, or vegetables) placed between two slices of bread. The beauty of the sandwich is that it is not only portable - it can be taken and consumed anywhere, from the table to the car to the work place - but the possibilities for fillings are almost endless, with the bread keeping the mess contained.
Bread is among mankind's oldest prepared foods, and doubtless it was combined with meats, stews, or other foods among many peoples and cultures worldwide, including as a means of containing and holding the other items. It is known that the pita - a type of bread with origins in the Middle East - had then as now an ability to form a pocket when baked, which would be filled with meat, vegetables, and sauces to suit the consumer. In pre-Columbian Mexico the tortilla was the staple bread, and often wrapped around other added ingredients.
The name "sandwich" came into vogue for this portable food during the 18th century, when John Montagu, a aristocratic British national and supposedly a very passionate card player who, according to the tradition, did not have time to eat after an hours-long game. Rather than get his cards greasy, Montagu had put a slice of salted beef between two bread slices, on which fellow players also requested "to have the same as Sandwich", in reference to Montagu's title as the 4th Earl of Sandwich. In 1765 a biographer of Montagu's rejected the gaming description and declared that it was much more likely that he had invented the sandwich in order not to interrupt his work at the desk.
Sandwiches are mentioned in the English literature from about 1760 onwards, initially as a snack at nightly men's societies. In the 19th century the sandwich became a popular intermediate meal, especially during tea. Moreover, it was in any case a typical English picnic and was considered the best food for rail travel, and still often offered on trains and on airplanes today. In response to the abstinence movement in England, local people began to serve a sandwich free of charge instead of alcoholic beverages to attract customers. One variation is the American Club Sandwich, which was offered to members in private clubs as a snack.
Sandwiches can be made with almost any kind of bread. Popular sandwich breads include:
- Wholemeal Bread
- The French Baguette
- Soda Bread
- Black Bread
- The Bread Roll (also known as a "cob", "barm", "bampot" or "tea-cake" in West Yorkshire, a "bread cake" in Leeds or "oven bottom" in Lancashire)
- The Stotty Cake or stottie, a round, flat loaf beloved of Tyneside
- The hamburger
- The "BLT" consists of bacon, lettuce and tomato.
- The Beef Roll consists of sliced beef and horseradish on a bread roll
- The Philadelphia Cheese Steak sandwich is a regional delight copied in many places
- Submarine sandwich; often called a hoagie or a grinder, and usually 12 inches long
- The bacon sandwich is a popular breakfast item and consists of bacon and either brown sauce or tomato ketchup
- The club sandwich uses three pieces of bread, with several layers of meat, cheese, and vegetable ingredients. They are usually served quartered, and held together with fancy toothpicks.
- The chip butty consists of a buttered (or larded) bap, bampot or soft roll filled with hot freshly fried chips.
- Peanut butter and jelly (PB&J)
- Ham and cheese
- The Grilled cheese