November 3 has been deemed National Sandwich Day, so here are some beans for you to brew …
Where does the word “sandwich” come from? Well, its eponym is a historic town in southeastern England (in the county of Kent). The story goes that the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague (no relation to Romeo), loved playing cards so much that he didn’t want to stop – not even for a bite of lunch. So rather than putting down his cards or getting his hands messy, he ordered his servants to slap together two slices of bread with some meat and cheese in between them. The portability of this new serving style made it possible for him to eat with one hand while continuing his game with the other. Montague’s “invention” became so popular with his friends that it got passed around and, well, it couldn’t help but adopt the moniker of its hometown.
[Aside: The title of earl, which signifies someone as a member of the nobility, is akin to the Scandinavian word jarl “chieftain”. An earl is simply someone who rules a bit of territory in place of the monarch. If you know this awesome cheese (which I love to make grilled-cheese sandwiches with) called Jarlsberg, well it’s your lucky day because you’re about to get a morpheme AND geography lesson all in one. The name of the cheese comes from the name of the countship of Jarlsberg, Norway. And the name of this countship comes from jarl “earl” and berg “hill; mountain”. The town of Sandwich, meanwhile, comes from sand “sand; sandy” and wic “dwelling place; town; harbour” … and it only makes sense, for it is right on the coast. This aside is making me hungry.]
So, we can’t really credit Montague with the invention of the sandwich though because people have been eating bread, meat, cheese, and veggies together for thousands of years before he came along with his gambling ways. Think about it for a moment: before the awesomeness of being able to freeze bread before we need to eat it, or to store loaves in plastic bags to keep air and moisture out, people had no choice but to eat the whole baked goodness right away lest it go stale. Stale bread that’s as hard as plastic would make excellent plates (that would then go on to feed the animals)! I digress. Even though Montague wasn’t the first guy to put his ingredients together, he certainly paved the way for students all over the world who now grow up toting bags of sandwiches every single day.
I love grilled-cheese-and-mushrooms and eggplant-parmigiana sandwiches. But if you want to know the sandwich way to my heart, it’s a hot and buttery lobster roll. Okay, I really need to start writing these posts after a nice meal. What’s your favourite sandwich?