We all, I suppose, know the origin of the sandwich, right?
Or maybe we don’t.
Well, there was this gambler–yes, of course he had a title. And yes, you do know it. He was the Earl of Sandwich.
No, really, that was his title. I don’t have to make this stuff up, you know, history did it for me.
So there he is, John Montegu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, (1718-1792), sitting there at the gaming tables. His wig’s askew, he possibly had turned his waistcoat inside out for luck. (Yes, they did that.)
But the thing about Sandwich is that on this occasion, he spent over 24 hours altogether at this particular gaming table…
(So one can quite understand that at some point he might have wondered if his great guts weren’t about to eat his little guts, as they would have said in 1780.)
Anyway, there he was, playing away, possibly unable to leave–perhaps he was playing piquet, a game involving six separate hands (deals) to make up a Partie–and feeling more than a little peckish.
So he called for two slices of toast, buttered, with a couple of thin slices of cold beef placed between the toast to be brought to him.
And all this happened sometime before 1762–because by that point, at a rather natty little place in London known as the Cocoa Tree, they were serving it and it was all the rage…
Yes, I know this is a bit before my period of expertise, really. But the fact is, you need to know what came before in order to make proper sense of what is. And by the Napoleonic wars they were eating sandwiches all over the place…
And yes, Jane Austen ate them too. She said so. In a letter dated from 1800. She said they were ‘all over mustard’. So obviously things had moved on from the buttered toast plan.