The ubiquitous Sandwich, whereby food such as servings of meat, cheese or salad is placed between two slices of bread to hold a quick and light meal was named after the English Forth Earl of Sandwich (1792).
As a young man while serving his country as a soldier on the battlefields of Europe, the Forth Earl of Sandwich learnt to make a more interesting quick meal out of simple army rations. Thus simple army rations was placed between two slices of bread to provide a totally square meal in the exigencies of war and which we now refer to as a sandwich, covering such meals as hamburgers, hot dog sandwich rolls and baguette submarines. Perhaps the Forth Earl of Sandwich should also be credited as having invented the very first “designer convenience fast food”.
On retirement from a very successful career in British military service as a landed and well to do “Lord of the Realm”, the Forth Earl of Sandwich spent his remaining days gaining notoriety at the gaming tables of London’s West End exclusive Gentlemen’s sporting clubs.
In 18th Century Europe, British society ‘s dress codes were far more rigorous and extensive than required of today. One’s old school tie was a sartorial expression and an icon that instantly communicated a person’s social upbringing thus his class, rank and position in society. A proper gentlemen’ social needs demanded a morning suite, a day suite, an evening and dinning suite, and all manners of sartorial expression for separate occasions within a day and for specific social class gatherings.
Society’s dress code of the day extended to London’s exclusive West End gentlemen’ sporting clubs frequented by the Forth Earl of Sandwich, requiring a proper gentleman to retire from gambling at the tables and gaming rooms to appropriately dress and dine in separate dinning rooms. This requirement for a change of both dress and to retire to dining rooms for taking meals was perhaps also for the reason that the wily sporting club’s owners feared that in allowing punters to dine while gambling seated around the gaming tables, would only invite oily fingers to stain gaming cards and so to accidentally mark cards to the player’s advantage.
Folklore has it that on an occasion when blessed with either a significant win, or was it more likely a loosing streak, the Forth Earl of Sandwich was so engrossed in his game that he would not leave the gaming table and room to dine in the separate dining room. Feeling hungry in the height of his battle with lady luck, he asked his waiter to place his meal of meat cuts between two slices of bread and served to him and as this was a “snack”, did not put him into direct conflict with prevailing dining dress codes or the sporting club’s rule prohibiting dining while seated around the gaming tables.
Presumably as the Forth Earl of Sandwich was a significant contributor to the income of the sporting club and as his fingers were kept from touching his meal and thus kept clean so he could not to mark his playing cards, a blind eye was turned to “the Earl of Sandwich’s snack”.
As the Forth Earl of Sandwich was a well known personality and presumably regarded as an eccentric the ubiquitous “Sandwich” was so invented and named.
Sadly culinary lore has it that the Forth Earl of Sandwich never got the better of lady luck and lost a significant part of his wealth to the gaming tables of London’s West End gentlemen’s sporting clubs.
The moral of this story is that, “if the Forth Earl of Sandwich had perhaps patented his “sandwich” namesake and invention instead of gaming away his wealth which was hard earned on the battlefields of Europe, the modern bakers of sandwich breads and American fast foods burger-sandwich franchises might still be paying significant royalties to the Earl of Sandwich’s Estate”.
A postscript to the sandwich story is, “If the Forth Earl of Sandwich had been an inventor instead of a sporting gentleman he would have probably named his invention designed to convenience eating while gambling at the tables of London’s West End Sporting Clubs as the original Club Sandwich”. Instead it was left to the patrons of British Empire Clubs in India, to name the “Club Sandwich” which now refers to a generous course of food held between pieces of bread slices and is not a “snack”, but is a main course on British menus and an entrée in the USA.
The Club Sandwich was perhaps the only menu item in the British Empire where it was only proper to eat a main course using ones bare hands.