Sandwiches Through Time: A Bread-ucational Journey

In terms of simplistic lunchtime snacks, sandwiches are a firm favourite. With so many variations, as well as plenty of options when it comes to breads and fillings, the humble sandwich can be enjoyed both savoury and sweet. Best consumed with a freshly baked loaf and hearty sustainably sourced ingredients, you may not be aware of the fascinating history behind this common lunchtime delicacy. Let us take you through the origins of the sandwich, getting to the bottom of why this simple-yet-effective daily nibble remains so popular. From the fascinating early origins, to some mouth-watering current incarnations, Freshways have you covered.

What’s The Appeal?

Ideal for a child’s lunchbox, pre-prepared as an office snack or taken on-the-go, sandwiches are a handy option for when time is in short supply, but you simply want a tasty pick-me-up. Fillings as varied as peanut butter, ham, cucumber and chocolate spread can all be enjoyed within two fluffy slices of bread – with the popularity of this classic combo showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, bread is currently bought by 99.8% of British households, and the equivalent of nearly 11 million loaves are sold each day!

As more and more consumers have made bread and bread products a prominent component of their diet, alternatives and similar doughy sandwich options have also become significant. The Freshways Bakery contains such alternatives as white and wholemeal rolls, muffins and sandwich thins, while gluten-free alternatives are widely available for those with intolerances. Ultimately, sandwiches are loved for their practicality and versatility, though the origins of this everyday favourite may surprise you.

Pre-European Origins

In truth, nobody knows the absolute pinpoint beginnings of the sandwich, with it being understandably difficult to trace the origins of such a concept. What we do know is that the simple idea of ‘two slices of bread housing a filling’ has existed in various forms for thousands of years. The use of bread and bread-like substances to scoop up and enclose some other types of food long predates The 18th Century, and can be found in numerous ancient worldwide.

Traced back through texts and writings, the ancient Jewish sage Hillel the Elder is said to have wrapped lamb and bitter herbs in a flatbread, while this practice has long been considered commonplace within parts of Western Asia and northern Africa. This bread was most often baked in flat rounds however, contrasting with the European preference for a puffy loaf. In a manner more recognisable to modern sandwich lovers, delicate finger food was eventually served between two slices of bread among the Greeks – not unlike snacks found at contemporary dinner parties and gatherings.

The Fourth Earl Of Sandwich

Within Western culture, before being known as ‘sandwiches’, this food combo seems to have been known self-descriptively as “bread and meat” or “bread and cheese”. These two phrases are found frequently throughout English dramas from The 16th to 17th Centuries, pre-dating the term we now associate with bread and fillings. Food historians generally attribute the creation of the modern day sandwich to John Montagu, AKA The Fourth Earl of Sandwich. The Earl is said to have been fond of gambling, and during a 1762 games session, he supposedly instructed a cook to prepare his food in such a way that it would not interfere with events.

The cook’s solution to this rather puzzling request was to emerge with a portion of sliced meat between two pieces of toast, requiring no utensils and eaten with one hand, leaving the other free to continue the game. Another theory is that during his excursions to the Eastern Mediterranean,The Earl saw grilled pita breads and sandwiches being served by the locals, and copied the concept for his convenience. If you believe either story – John Montagu probably had a prominent part to play in introducing sandwiches into modern British society. Somewhat of a blessing and a curse, his title has been associated with sandwiches ever since.

Snacks For All

Literary references to sandwiches began to crop up in English literature during the late-1760s, but this was under the assumption that sandwiches were a food consumed exclusively by upper-class men, during late-night drinking parties. Not to be excluded, prominent culinary writer Charlotte Mason was one of the first English cookbook authors to provide a practical recipe for sandwiches, opening up an opportunity for working-class Britons to experience the simple combination that we know and love. As hot supper declined in popularity, light dishes made of cold leftovers were favoured by busy workers during the longer days and evenings, with these various ingredients considered perfect for sandwich fillings at the time.

The sandwich soon became a fixture of evening suppers, teas, and picnics, spreading around The United Kingdom as a favourable family meal option. Popularity in England increased dramatically during The 19th Century, with industrial society requiring practical, portable, and inexpensive meals. With popular modern bakers such as Hovis and Kingsmill leading the way, the sandwich revolution was soon upon us. Over 70 street vendors were already taking the opportunity to sell pre-made ham sandwiches by the year 1850, a decade during which sandwich bars grew in popularity throughout the continent.

Cultured Combinations

As different sandwich types and various filling options grew in popularity within various subsections of society, the less-wealthy were beginning to repurpose their very own types of sandwich. Eating meals served on a stale piece of bread which they called a ‘Trencher’, this makeshift plate saved the need for any utensils or crockery, absorbing the juices of the meal so nothing was wasted. Fast-forwarding to the modern day, and different cultures and countries have their very own terms and phrases for sandwich combinations.

In the Middle East, falafel in layered pita bread is a notable food of choice, while the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an unconventional-yet-popular lunchtime choice for schoolchildren in The United States. If you’re looking for something different in the sandwich department, why not take a look at some of our previous blogs?

Fillings And Spreads

No sandwich is complete without a signature spread or filling within. Butters, jams and other dairy delights are all worth consideration, so take a look through our range and benefit from bulk discounts, exclusive deals and much more:

Soft Cream Cheese

We offer a range of the finest quality wholesale cheese, so whether you’re looking for block cheese, grated cheese or sliced cheese, we offer a range worth shouting about. Cream cheeses are brilliant with your morning toast or within a sandwich taken into work – and as the largest independent dairy cream cheese suppliers in the country, we provide only the best.

Jam Or Marmalade

For those with the occasional sweet craving, jams and marmalades are a great alternative to savoury spreads. Whether on top of a toasted crumpet, muffin or bagel, our jams are bursting with real fruit, and kids simply love the tangy-yet-moreish marmalade on offer via our catalogue.

Butter And Margarine

Browse classic salted butters, restaurant patisserie butter, organic options and wholesale alternatives within the Freshways online catalogue. Trusted by cafes, eateries and pubs both in the locality and throughout Britain, we continue to cater to domestic and commercial customers with sustainably sourced dairy options.

Freshways: Delicious Bread, Wholesale Butter And More

Beginning over three decades ago as a wholesaler, Freshways have expanded to become one of the largest and most respected dairy suppliers in The United Kingdom. Growing our range to include bread, eggs and other fresh everyday essentials, we stock only the highest quality items – at competitive prices. Fully independent and reliable, third parties will never be involved with our processes. This means you can expect a fast, efficient and reliable supply of produce, regardless of your location in the country.

For more information about our products, simply get in touch with a helpful member of the Freshways team today. The nation’s leading bread supplier would be delighted to help!