“Chef, go make me a sandwich.”

Here’s a handy anecdote for you to impress your friends at a house party. Ever wonder how sandwich got its name?

So the story goes: once upon a time, in the middle of the 18th Century to be precise, there was a British statesman named John Montague, who was the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. He later became First Lord of the Admiralty and patron to Capt. James Cook, who explored many Pacific islands such as New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and Polynesia and named the Sandwich Island after him.

Historians note that Montague was a notorious gambler who would play cards for hours at a time in restaurants. In order to keep playing with one hand, he instructed chefs to place cheese and meat in between two pieces of bread so he could hold them in the other hand. Voila, sandwiches were born.

Montague’s biographer, N.A.M Rodger, however, argued in his 1994 book The Insatiable Earl – A Life of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich that the Earl was more likely to have ordered sandwiches to eat at his desk since he was known to be quite busy. Others argue that Montague stole the concept of a sandwich during an excursion in the Eastern Mediterranean, where he saw grilled pita breads and canapes served by the Greeks and Turks.

Unfortunately, Montague and the Greeks he saw were hardly the real inventors of the concept. Hillel the Elder, a rabbi who lived during the 1st century B.C. was often credited for first assembling a mixture of nuts, apples, spices and wine between two matzohs.

Some fun facts about sandwiches:

1. An average American child eats about 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches when he graduates from high school.

2. April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Day.

3. Peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich is also called the Elvis sandwich, having been Elvis Presley’s favorite.

4. According to the British Sandwich Association (I know, but it exists…) the UK sandwich industry employs over 300,000 people.

5. The largest sandwich ever made was put together by Wild Woody’s Chill and Grill in Roseville, Michigan on March 15, 2005. It weighed (*gasp) 5440 lb.

6. One of my favorite sandwiches is BLT. I love to fancy it up with some arugula and homemade mayo with garlic and rosemary. What’s your favorite sandwich?

(Sources for historical information: http://www.foodtimeline.org/ and http://whatscookingamerica.net/)

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