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More than you’ll ever want, or need, to know about the Earl of Sandwich

Despite appearances, (and brand names!), we don’t have any long-standing issues against the humble sandwich, (I might even be eating one right now as I write this article!), so it’s only right that we give a nod to the man credited with being the first to eat a

filling between two pieces of bread and then lent his name to it after the snack became a go-to favourite.

Today, (13 November 2020), would have been the 4th Earl of Sandwich’s (see the splendid fellow below), 302nd birthday, and he could never have imagined that when he was hit with the munchies during a game of cards that his inspirational snacking moment would seal his legacy as a lunchtime phenomenon 

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The card table munchies attack that launched a legend

Legend has it that the 4th Earl of Sandwich or John Montagu to his friends loved a game of cards especially if there was a bit money on the table to boot. This would often lead to him spending hours at the card table without taking a break.

It was during one such marathon session that he asked his cook to bring him some food he could eat without having to leave his seat – the inventive, but unfortunately unknown, chef brought some meat slipped between two pieces of a loaf and the sandwich was born. A scene re-enacted and brought to life by the wonderful team at Horrible Histories in the video below:

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Anyone for a tongue sandwich?!

The Earl enjoyed his new snack so much that he went on to eat it constantly leading it to become earl-of-sandwichan 18th-century food fad amongst the well-to-do’s who would order “the same as Sandwich!” and so the name stuck.  

It is thought that the most popular variety of the Earl’s time was in fact tongue sandwich – which has a whole different connotation in modern times – but we’ll leave that there. 

Today there is a somewhat wider range of fillings and breads available, everything from a simple ham on white bread to more exotic ingredients like crayfish, avocado and rocket on sourdough.  

However, despite the huge variety of options, our most popular sandwich filling in the UK is still, the super-tasty grilled bacon, followed by egg mayonnaise then sausage, (definitely a breakfast rather than lunch theme to this list), with cheese and pickle plus the slightly more healthy tuna and cucumber making up the top 5.

Our bacon butty tribute!

Of course, the Earl of Sandwich was more accomplished than just being the person who didn’t invent but ate the first sandwich! In fact, he held earl-of-sandwich-bacon-sandwichsseveral high offices of State including First Lord of the Admiralty – three times and has islands in Hawaii, Australia and Alaska named after him by the explorer Captain James Cook.

However, his general incompetence and corruption did not make him a popular chap, indeed one rather cutting critic was quoted to say of Montagu: “Seldom has any man held so many offices and accomplished so little.” 

But it is a piece of meat and two pieces of bread that will seal his fame forever, and for that, we should all wish him a very happy birthday every 13th November, and maybe even raise a sizzling bacon butty at breakfast in his honour!