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Who really invented the sandwich.

So we've all heard the story of how the sandwich was invented. The Earl of Sandwich (in England) was attending a card-game tournament. He was hungry, but wanted to continue playing while eating, so he needed both hands to stay clean and he needed one hand free to hold up the cards. So he told one of the servants to fetch him some slices of roast beef and put them between two slices of bread. The other royals noted this and eventually started ordering "what the Earl of Sandwich came up with". Eventually they just started calling it a sandwich. And thus was born the sandwich.

Awesome story. But here's the thing. The Mexicans/Aztecs/Mayans/peoples of Central America had been holding food in tortilla wrappers for years. They used corn tortillas and filled them with the ingredients they had, like avocados, turkey, squash, fish, etc. But they wraps/sandwiches any way you slice it. So you could most certainly say that they were the first inventors of the wrap. But depending on how you define it, or what you choose as the main defining characteristic, a wrap is just a kind of sandwich. If you focus on the convenience of the food; that they provide you with a dry, edible surface to hold to allow you to eat a variety of things but not get your fingers wet/greasy, then a wrap and a sandwich are just two forms of the same thing. And in both cases this convenience seems to be the driving force behind the invention and subsequent popularity of these foods.

So what does everybody think?

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  1. Well. it's obviously tosh that it was the Earl of Sandwich who "invented" it - the name only caught on because he was a toff. We've been eating "stuff with bread" as long as there's been bread and stuff, not least as in the trencher.

    1. The cave drawings of Lascaux feature a commuter eating a "sandwich"

      1 Reply
      1. re: beevod

        I remember seeing a documentary on the Nazca, Peru line drawings - the drawings only legible from the sky, not discernible from the ground. One of those is believed to be a sandwich, which puzzle scientists to this day.
        Of course more extreme theories say this sandwich came from space aliens.

        1. re: Kholvaitar

          Probably not ham and cheese....:)
          I'll go with Earl.

        2. How come we don't call it an earl?

          1 Reply
          1. I honestly believe the caveman did.

            To me, this is really asking who invented the fire. (every early human beings did - independently

            <So you could most certainly say that they were the first inventors of the wrap>

            I bet you that ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians have all have some forms of meat put in between two pieces of bread.

            5 Replies
              1. re: c oliver

                So true, so true.

                I think once human beings have learnt to make dough. It would have been a second nature for them to try to stuff some thing (especially meat) in between two pieces of dough or use the dough to fold the meat.

                Give a little kid a piece of bread and some meat, and he will, soon or later, combine the meat with the bread.

                It is said that bread has a history of at least 30,000 years. Not to take anything from Earl of Sandwich, but I will be very surprised that human being did not learn to put meat in between two pieces of bread until ~1730 AD. Before that, human have been eating bread separated from meat and vegetables for 29,700 years.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Maybe it was just the first time that a la-dee-da Englishman had ever eaten anything with his hands :)

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Nah, it was only the early 18th century when we really stopped eating with our hands (or just with a knife) and started using fork and knife. About the same time as Sandwich was doing his thing in public.

                    1. re: Harters

                      In my backpacking days, when we would drill holes in our toothbrushes to reduce weight, forks were superfluous. A knife and spoon were the limit, no forks.

            1. The corollary question would be -- why is it called the sandwich? Maybe "invent" is the wrong word.

              1. The sandwich was of course invented in the Sandwich Islands, where it has been a traditional delicacy for many centuries.

                If you don't believe me, next time you visit the Sandwich Islands just head for the nearest beach, and have a look at all the ...

                2 Replies
                1. re: chowyadoin99

                  Well the Hawaiians (Sandwich Islanders) did kill Captain Cook and I believe they made sandwiches out of him.

                  1. re: kagemusha49

                    So their sandwich fillings were ..... cooked, not raw ? ;-)

                2. Admiral Montagu, please meet Chancellor Liang.

                  Bread around meat filling: Baozi

                  "According to legend, they were invented by the scholar and military strategist Zhuge Liang (3rd century AD)."

                  Like a lot of modern inventions, the mantou/bao was designed for military purposes !


                  "A popular story in China relates that the name mantou actually originated from the homophonous word mántóu meaning "barbarian's head".

                  This story originates from the Three Kingdoms Period, when the strategist Zhuge Liang led the Shu Army in an invasion of the southern lands (roughly modern-day Yunnan and northern Burma). After subduing the barbarian king Meng Huo, Zhuge Liang led the army back to Shu, but met a swift-flowing river which defied all attempts to cross it. A barbarian lord informed him, in olden days, the barbarians would sacrifice 50 men and throw their heads into the river to appease the river spirit and allow them to cross; Zhuge Liang, however, did not want to cause any more bloodshed, and instead killed the cows and horses the army brought along, and filled their meat into buns shaped roughly like human heads - round with a flat base - to be made and then thrown into the river. After a successful crossing, he named the buns "barbarian's head" (mántóu, 蠻頭, which evolved into the present day 饅頭)."

                  1. Who cares? what's important is did Marco Polo brought pasta (noodles) back from China to Italy?

                    1 Reply