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The origin of the Sandwich: From Humble Beginnings to Flavourful creations

an egg sandwich with lettuce and sesame seeds
An egg sandwich makes a great quick breakfast

If you've been along for the journey of The Mulberry Pig for a while, you'll know that I bloody love a good sandwich, its one of the reasons why I started the business, so I could have a wider choice of interesting condiments to put on my favourite meal.

Recently one morning while having a fried egg sandwich (egg flipped but still runny, but of course) with tomato relish, I started to ponder about how the simple sandwich came to be, was it just a happy coincidence that bread was the perfect vessel for delicious fillings, where did the word sandwich come from? From its humble beginnings to the delicious sauces, chutneys, and relishes that adorn them today, the story of the sandwich is a fascinating journey through cultures and loved by the world over, well lets get into and have a quick lesson into the origin of the sandwich, my favourite meal.

The Birth of the Sandwich

The story of the sandwich begins in 18th-century England with a man named John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. As legend has it, the Earl was a passionate gambler who didn't want to leave the gaming table, even for a meal. So, he requested his servant to bring him some roast beef placed between two slices of bread. This ingenious idea allowed him to continue playing without getting his cards greasy or his fingers messy. Thus, the sandwich was born, Im still not 100% sold that this is real but on my mission to find out all sources pointed in the same direction that there is indeed an earl of sandwich and sandwich is in fact a little town on the outskirts of Kent in the United Kingdom ( who'd of thunk!).

Initially, the sandwich was a simple affair – a piece of meat between bread. But as it gained popularity, it evolved to incorporate a variety of fillings. From cold cuts to vegetables, cheese to seafood, the possibilities seemed endless. This evolution marked the beginning of a culinary revolution that would eventually lead to the creation of unique sauces, chutneys, and relishes to enhance the sandwich experience.

cheese toastie with pickles
A toasted cheese with sweet chilli jam and pickles

Sauces, Chutneys, and Relishes – Elevating the Sandwich

As sandwiches gained popularity worldwide, chefs and home cooks alike began experimenting with different flavours. This experimentation gave rise to a wide array of sauces, chutneys, and relishes designed to complement and elevate the humble sandwich.

  • Sauces:

Sauces like mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup became staples in sandwich-making. Mayonnaise, with its creamy richness, added a luxurious touch to chicken or egg salad sandwiches. Mustard brought a tangy kick to ham and cheese, while ketchup provided a sweet and savory contrast in burgers. These sauces not only improved the taste but also kept them juicy and moist.

  • Chutneys:

Chutneys, with their blend of fruits, spices, and vinegar, brought a burst of flavor to sandwiches. Eggplant chutney added a curried twist to chicken or turkey, while fruity chutneys enhanced the roast dinner leftover sandwich. The versatility of chutneys allowed for creative combinations that catered to various tastes and preferences.

  • Relishes:

Relishes, typically made from chopped vegetables and vinegar, provided a refreshing crunch and tanginess. Pickle relish, with its briny notes, became a classic addition to hot dogs and burgers. These relishes not only contributed to the flavor profile but also offered a satisfying textural element.

A Global Culinary main stay

The sandwich is not confined to any one corner of the world; it's a universal concept that's adapted, modified, and celebrated in countless ways. Here are nine sandwiches from around the globe that showcase the sheer diversity and creativity in sandwich-making:

1. Banh Mi (Vietnam): A fusion of French and Vietnamese flavours, Banh Mi features a crispy baguette filled with a variety of options, such as grilled pork, pate, pickled daikon and carrot, fresh coriander, and spicy chili sauce.

2. Cubano (Cuba): A creation that includes roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, all pressed between Cuban bread ( think a crispy white fat baguette). The result is a crispy, gooey delight with a perfect balance of flavours.

3. Gyro (Greece): Slices of seasoned, slow-cooked kebab (usually lamb or chicken) in a warm pita bread and topped with tomatoes, onions, and tangy tzatziki sauce.

4. Falafel (Middle East): A vegetarian delight, falafel sandwiches consist of deep-fried chickpea or fava bean patties nestled inside pita bread, accompanied by fresh veggies like tomato, cucumber, red onion and tahini sauce.

5. Croque-Monsieur (France): A classic French creation, this sandwich is made with slices of ham and creamy béchamel sauce, sandwiched between buttered and toasted bread, and topped with gooey Gruyère cheese.

6. Reuben (United States): A beloved American classic, the Reuben combines corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing ( a deliciously creamy spiced sauce packed with parsley and fresh onion), all piled onto rye bread and grilled to crisp perfection.

7. Club Sandwich (United States): A triple-decker delight, the club sandwich features layers of roasted turkey or chicken, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, all secured between slices of toasted bread.

8. Chivito (Uruguay): A hearty Uruguayan sandwich that boasts sliced steak, ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayonnaise, often crowned with a fried egg for an extra indulgent touch.

9. Katsu Sando (Japan): A Japanese twist on the sandwich, Katsu Sando features a breaded and deep-fried pork or chicken cutlet nestled between soft white bread and drizzled with tangy tonkatsu sauce.

These 9 sandwiches offer just a glimpse into the diverse and flavourful world of sandwich-making. Each one tells a story of culture and influences, reminding us that the humble sandwich is a global treasure.

homemade fillet of fish burger
is it a burger or a sandwich or is a burger a sandwich?

What Makes a Sandwich a Sandwich?

A sandwich is defined by its key elements. Firstly, it starts with bread, which serves as the vessel for the fillings. Second, the variety of fillings distinguishes a sandwich, be it meats, cheeses, vegetables, each contributing to flavor and texture. The art of layering is crucial, with ingredients deliberately arranged for taste and texture enhancement. Sauces and spreads provide both flavor and moisture, to bring everything together in each bite..

Moreover, the fold or cut method, like tacos or halves, characterizes how sandwiches are served. Versatility is a defining trait, allowing for personalization and adaptation to dietary, cultural, or regional preferences. Lastly, the handheld convenience factor is central; a sandwich is designed to be portable, convenient, and self-contained, offering a delightful meal on the go. These components come together, transforming a collection of ingredients into the beloved and versatile creation we know as a sandwich and quite possibly the best meal of all time!

The history of the sandwich is a testament to human ingenuity and our never-ending quest for culinary experimentation. From its basic beginnings as a convenient card game snack to its current main stay in the world of food, the sandwich has come a long way. The addition of sauces, chutneys, and relishes has elevated this simple meal to new heights, offering a world of flavors and textures in every bite.

I don't know about you but All this talk of food has made me hungry.

Time to grab a Sarnie I reckon!

Check out our recipe for this Roast mushroom and smoked onion marmalade toastie, you can thank me later! 😅

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