The Earl of Sandwich & the Origin of the Sandwich
John Montagu 4th Earl of Sandwich
Seated - Captain James Cook Centre - Lord Sandwich
The origin of the word 'sandwich' for an item of food may have originated from a story about John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. He didn't really 'invent' the sandwich but he may have made it popular.
It is said that in approx.1762, he asked for meat to be served between slices of bread, to avoid interrupting a gambling game. This story may have been rumour or adverse propoganda, put about by his rivals.
But soon people may have started ordering “the same as Sandwich”, and the name stuck !
Hereditary English titles can be confusing. The family of the Earls of Sandwich has no real connection to the town itself, only the title. The 1st Earl, Edward Montagu, originally intended to take the title of the Earl of Portsmouth - this may have been changed as a compliment to the town of Sandwich, because the fleet he was commanding in 1660 was lying off Sandwich, before it sailed to bring back Charles II to England.
*We could be eating a 'Portsmouth'!
It is generally thought here, that the word 'sandwich' as an item of food, has no connection with the town, only with John Montagu, who happened to have the title, a 'sandwich' could just as easily have been called a 'portsmouth' if the 1st Earl, Edward Montagu, had not changed his mind over his title.
The Sandwich Isles
Captain James Cook also named the Sandwich Isles (Hawaii) after the 4th Earl, who was his financial sponsor.
The First 'Sandwiches'
The 1st Century B.C. Jewish Rabbi Hillel the Elder is reported to have started the Passover tradition of putting lamb, mixed nuts and herbs between two pieces of unleavened bread. In the Middle Ages, people used thick slices of stale bread called 'trenchers' to double as plates on which they placed cooked meats and vegetables, a kind of 'open sandwich', although they probably did not eat the stale bread. The Dutch also have a long tradition of serving bread & butter with meat or fish (broodjes) or other delicious fillings & toppings.
The 2000 years old Sandwich
The first recorded mention of Sandwich was around 664 AD but there was probably some kind of settlement in Roman times as the site is very close to Richborough Roman Fort (Rutupiae).
The name of the town is, most likely, Saxon in origin, approximately meaning sandy place, or the place on the sand. The word sandwich as an item of food came into being centuries later ...