Boswells Blog

17th August 2018

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

Discover the Surprisingly Long History of the Humble Sandwich

280 years ago, Boswell’s flung open their doors and the till’s have been singing ever since. To celebrate this occasion, we have launched our very own Name That Sandwich competition in conjunction with our Tea Room. The winner not only gets a prize, but the sandwich of their own creation is put on our menu, along with the other great sandwiches we have been feeding to the public. I have the honour of judging the winner (I have become John Montagu, lording over all entrees). So, what delights and bespoke culinary sandwiches will you create for me to judge and celebrate?

The Ancient Sandwich

Spice Image

Sliced and stacked, hot or cold, savoury or sweet, I think I can safely say there isn’t a single living Englishman that hasn’t devoured this national finger food—the sandwich! This single, layered culinary staple isn’t leaving the world's collective menu anytime soon, nor ours here at Boswells.

Any way you slice it, the origin of the sandwich is difficult to trace. There are, however, several people throughout ancient history who have been seen with one in their hands (and mouths). The first recorded was Hillel the Elder, a prominent Jewish rabbi who lived around the 1st century, B.C. When not crafting the Golden Rule, Hillel is believed to have placed a mixture of chopped nuts, spices, apples, and wine (somehow) between two matzos, which were to be eaten with bitter herbs. It seems that he was the first person to have a sandwich named after him: Hillel’s concoction became so ingrained in the observation of Passover that the food became known as a “Hillel sandwich.”

The Original Sandwich Platter

Bruschetta ImageDuring the Middle Ages (between the 6th and 16th centuries A.D.) people ate not from plates, but blocks of stale bread known as trenchers. Among other foods, meats with sauce were piled on top of the trenchers and eaten with the fingers. The trencher would soak up the excess juices due to its thick and absorbent texture and would then be eaten if the diner was still hungry at the end of the meal. Otherwise, the trencher was either thrown away or given to the poor.

Lord of Sandwiches

Ciabatta Image

The sandwich didn’t become the sandwich until the 18th century. In the middle of a 24-hour gambling event, the story goes, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, wanted to be able to continue betting without taking a lunch break. He had previously visited the Mediterranean, where he had seen the pita breads and small canapes served by the Greeks and Turks. Montagu instructed an aide to put together a similar meal for him, which could be eaten with one hand, leaving him able to continue his gambling spree. So, we have a lot to thank all these fancy dans and their foreign breads for.

Create Your Own Sandwich Masterpiece...

Sandwich ImageWe, here at Boswells, will be embracing the noble ciabatta to hold together the wonderful ingredients for the winning sandwich, as we needed a bread a little more street wise and robust than our glorious white farmhouse or granary sliced. 

Once I've eaten my way through all of the entries, the winner will be announced on Monday the 3rd September. The winning sandwich will appear on our menu for you to try for yourself this Autumn.

To enter, simply pick up an entry form in store, or email your recipe to tearoom@boswellsltd.com. Good luck to all...viva la sandwich!

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