In the 18th century, English aristocrat John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, asked for a piece of meat between two slices of bread to keep his hands clean during a game of cards. Since then, the Earl’s favorite mid-game snack has become a global institution. From the Shawarma to the Reuben to the BLT, sandwiches are eaten on a day-to-day basis by millions of people across the globe. From fueling office workers to bricklayers to just about everyone else, the sandwich is perhaps the most commonly eaten snack food on earth.
Of course, things weren’t always this way. Although the tradition of using bread as a vessel to carry meat and vegetables has been around for thousands of years, it wasn’t until Sandwich that somebody had the idea of filling bread with meat and making it a meal in itself. Since then, the sandwich has developed into an incredibly varied dish that is only defined in very loose terms as bread served with a filling. From the Spanish bocadillo to Döner Kebab, some of the world’s favorite dishes are, in fact, sandwiches.
The home of the sandwich is Britain, with the food remaining perhaps the country’s most significant contribution to the global gastronomic roster. In the days of the Earl, the sandwich was most likely two slices of white bread with a piece of meat – likely beef, lamb, or pork – slid in between. Today, however, things have become much more complicated indeed. From the ever-so-simple bacon sandwich to the considerably more fancy Club, the British continue to consume more sandwiches than any other people on earth. That said, some of the best-known sandwiches originate far from the British Isles.
Perhaps the only other country to fall in love with the sandwich so much is the USA, whose people have made the sandwich into something of an art form. From kosher meats and rye bread in the delis of Manhattan to the gloriously dirty Philly cheesesteak, the United States is comfortably home to the world’s biggest and most varied sandwiches. Yet this love of bread, meat, and condiments isn’t restricted to Anglophone nations.
Even France, with a centuries-old culinary tradition involving what are very often highly complex processes, has fallen in love with the humble sandwich. Call into any bistro in Paris and you’ll be able to enjoy a Croque Monsieur, a simple blend of white bread filled with ham and cheese that’s toasted to molten perfection. Then there are the Greek gyros, which is a pita bread filled with lamb meat, vegetables, and sauce. In conclusion, just about every nation on earth has their own version of the sandwich; the only trouble is finding time to try them all.