The Person Behind the Word: Sandwich

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe sandwich, a food item consisting of meat, cheese, lettuce or other fillings between two slices of bread, has existed since ancient biblical times and over the centuries was simply called “bread and cheese” or “bread and meat. Although he certainly didn’t invent it, the sandwich is named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) who was a compulsive card player  — cribbage was his vice. In order to continue playing cards at the table, Lord Sandwich would order food from his valet that he could eat to keep his fingers clean  — meat between two slices of bread — so as not to dirty the cards. His fellow card players, ahem,  followed suit and asked their valets “to have the same as Sandwich.” And, thus the “bread and meat” became the sandwich. The word first appeared in print in 1762, in the journal of Edward Gibbon who referred to “bits of cold meat… as a Sandwich.”

Captain James Cook named the Sandwich Islands in honor of Lord Sandwich, who was the First Lord of the Admiralty. Although the food he named was extremely popular, he was not — Sandwich was also known as “the most universally disliked man in England” because he was in charge of the British naval fleet during the War of Independence. Although he excelled at playing cards, he was incompetent in presiding over the navy, reducing it to a state of chaos. Sandwich was also a member of the notorious Hellfire Club, and he had an appetite for deflowering young, innocent virgins.

In May of 2012 the British Sandwich Association, that employs more than 300,00 in England, celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Sandwich featuring sandwich-making competitions.

A research firm in America published the Sandwich Consumer Trend Report in 2012 that indicated that sandwich eating is on the rise: 43% of consumers eat at least 4 sandwiches each week, and almost half (49%) of those sandwiches are purchased at a restaurant or foodservice location. The report also notes that breakfast sandwiches have increased by 35%.

Read related post: Couch Potato

For further reading: Lord Sandwich and the Pants Man by Eamon Evans, Hardie Grant Books (2013)

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