August is National Sandwich Month. Let’s celebrate!
We are a nation of sandwich lovers. We eat sandwiches for almost any meal, every day. It’s no wonder, too. We live in a fast-paced world and sandwiches are convenient. They fit so comfortably in our hands. What other meal can you eat while performing other tasks? Plus, sandwiches are comfort food. They are reminders of childhood meals prepared by someone who cared for us. Sandwiches are versatile. You can be as creative as you want to be. There are no real rules when it comes to sandwiches. Sandwiches are timeless. The ancestors of our ancestors ate sandwiches and I’m confident that generations from now will be eating them still. Food trends come and go, but sandwiches endure.
The name “sandwich” has been credited to the fourth Earl of Sandwich, otherwise known as John Montagu. The story goes that he was so involved in a lengthy card game that he could not be bothered to break his concentration to take a meal, so he asked for slices of beef served between two pieces of toasted bread. I have no idea if he won the game, but the other players were impressed with this new snack and a trend was started. While it is not clear if this anecdote is completely true, the story took hold. Soon the name was official—when you ate two pieces of bread with something in the middle, you were eating a “sandwich.”
But sandwiches have been around for nearly 9,000 years. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when or where they first appeared. Farm workers in rural France had been eating meat between sliced bread long before it had a name, though the sandwich likely started even earlier than that. The earliest recognizable form of a sandwich may be the Korech or “Hillel sandwich” that is eaten during Jewish Passover. Hillel the Elder, a Jewish leader and rabbi who lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod (circa 110 BC), first suggested eating bitter herbs inside unleavened matzo bread. Hillel’s simple recommendation of sandwiching the two foods together may indicate that this was already a popular way of serving food in the Middle East.
Every culture has its own versions of sandwiches, so it easy to find new inspiration. In Cuba, restaurants serve ham and cheese on Cuban bread. In the Middle East, falafel or shawarma in a pita pocket is the fast food of choice. In France, a Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame can be found in most cafés. In Italy, simple and rustic panino sandwiches are the norm. In New York, pastrami on rye is king, though the Reuben takes a close second. In Philadelphia, it’s all about the cheesesteak. Sandwiches come in endless varieties, making them one of the most popular foods worldwide. If you haven’t tried a Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Sandwiches first appeared in American cookbooks in 1816. The fillings were no longer limited to cold meat, as recipes called for a variety of things, including cheese, fruit, shellfish, nuts, and mushrooms. The years following the Civil War saw an increase in sandwich consumption, and they could be found anywhere from high-class luncheons to the taverns of the working class. By the end of the 19th century, sandwiches earned new names for their many different forms, like the triple-layered “club sandwich” and the corned beef “Reuben.”
A sandwich can be as humble as peanut butter with strawberry preserves. This classic might not elicit the same enthusiasm as it once did, but if you add fresh strawberry slices and crushed peanuts to the existing foundation, it’s like reconnecting with a childhood friend who is way cooler than you ever remembered.
Everyone has favorites, the go-to combinations that always satisfy, be it a classic ham and Swiss, or the strange but delicious Elvis (banana, peanut butter, and bacon on grilled bread). I like to add plain potato chips to my tuna sandwiches for an extra salty crunch.
ONF has everything you need to create the sandwich you crave. We have a selection of all natural deli meats that we can slice to order: oven-roasted turkey breast that is as close to Thanksgiving leftovers as you can get without roasting the bird yourself; smoked turkey; fire-smoked ham; and introducing Genoa salami. To complement the meat, or be the star itself, we offer a selection of cheese that can also be sliced for sandwiches: sharp white cheddar, Muenster, mozzarella, provolone, Swiss, colby jack, and pepper jack. Additionally, we have a range of gourmet cheese, including several from local cheese producers.
A sandwich begins with a great bread. We have a variety of amazing breads from local bakeries: Apple Blossom Brewery (the Everything Sourdough is everything!), Ozark Natural Breads, and Stone Mill Bakery (I love the Woodstock). Not to mention, we also have ciabatta and French baguettes (the best in town) made by our own talented bakers at ONF. And if you browse down aisle 2, you’ll find an assortment of condiments to bring it all together. I highly recommend Sir Kensington’s Sriracha Mayonnaise.
If you’re in need of inspiration, there are many websites and blogs about the art of sandwich-making, my friends. Google it sometime and try not to drool on your computer keyboard, like I did. But if you just don’t have the time, stop by A La Carte and we’ll make one of our sandwiches for you. We’re celebrating sandwiches every day…
~Julie, Cheese Buyer