Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Who was Sandwich?

John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich
Anyone who would see two or more bread piled together with something in between will call it a sandwich. Sandwiches has a simple concept. It simplicity made it even a stone age man could do. By why would it be called a sandwich? In fact, it was named after a person. Then, from whom did sandwich took its name?

Sandwich was named after a British aristocrat. John Montagu was the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. He lived from 1718 up to 1792. He was man very active in government affairs. In a young age of 21, he entered the House of Lords. Then he served as the First Lord of Admiralty in 1748 and held it until 1751. He would later take the same post again twice: in 1763 and 1771-1782 (during the American Revolution).  He also took the post of Secretary of State for the Northern Department twice also, first in 1763-1765, and second in 1770-1771. The Earl also took the appointment of Postmaster General in 1768-1770. It was from him that James Cook named the Sandwich Islands. Most importantly, it was from title of this man of distinction that the name of sandwich was derived.

The next question was how this man’s title became attached to one of the most ingenious but simple treat in the world. The first mention of sandwich came from the book of Pierre-Jean Grosley, Tour of London or Londres, published in 1770. Grosley’s book stated that the story of the name sandwich came from the journal of Edward Gibbon, the author of History of Rome. According to Gibbon’s journal, he was dinning in Cocoa Tree and men ate cold meat and a “sandwich.”

The men got the practice of a meat between two slices of bread from habits of the Earl of Sandwich. The incident was said to have happened in 1762. The Earl of Sandwich was not just a distinguished government official, but also an infamous gambler. The Earl had strong impulse towards card games. He would invite friends to stay throughout the day and night and play cards. He was so addicted to card games he did not wanted to be bother by eating. He did not like using utensils to eat because it would disrupt his game. And so, the Earl began to order his servant to place a slice of meat between two pieces of bread. It was much faster, cleaner, and easier. In addition, his fun won’t be bother by dinning. He could continue to play and only needed his hands to eat his meals.

Eventually, talks about the practice of the Earl spread. Men who would eat in the streets of London would emulate the Earls practice and named it after him. When Grosley’s work was published, the name of sandwich got stuck to the meal. Later on, by the 1770’s, the name sandwich was becoming widely use throughout Europe.

It was from a man with great track record that a simple act of eating two or more slices of bread with something in between was named. John Montagu, The Earl of Sandwich, not just the man here Sandwich Island, later the Hawaiian Island, but the man we would always remembered for a nice no-utensil, and hassle-free treat. 

Boone, J. Around the World of Food: Adventures in Culinary History. Nebraska: iUniverse, 2006.

Hayes, D. & R. Laudan (eds.). Food and Nutrition: Phytonutrients to Soul Food. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2009.

Newman, G. (ed.). Britain in the Hanoverian Age, 1714 - 1837: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Pub., 1997.

Wilson, B. Sandwich: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books, Ltd., 2010.

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