The art of slapping meat to bread can famously be traced back to the appetite of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich in the English county of Kent, circa 1750.
By the turn of the 20th century, the sandwich was a staple in the American diet. It was fast, portable and cheap. A true DIY working class meal with endless variations.
America’s love affair with the sandwich can be seen in Eva Greene Fuller’s Up-To-Date Sandwich Book, a delightful compendium published in 1909 dedicated to the fine art of sandwich assembly.
“The first requisite in the preparation of good sandwiches is to have the perfect bread in suitable condition,” Fuller writes. “Either brown, rye or entire wheat bread may be used, but it should be of close, even texture and at least one day old.”
Along with nuggets of sandwich wisdom, the cookbook, if you can even call it that, features no less than 400 recipes divided into sections, from Fish to Egg, Cheese to Meat. There is inspiration to be had here, and much of it news to us, despite its age.
Take, for example, the Japanese Egg Sandwich:
“Chop four hard-boiled eggs and three boned sardines fine, add a teaspoon of melted butter and rub to a paste; season with pepper and salt and little mayonnaise dressing; cut in slender strips. Garnish with parsley and an olive.”
Or, better yet, the the Picnic Sandwich — basically, a simple steak tartare grinder:
“A pound of raw beef run through the meat chopper; a teacup full of bread crumbs, pepper and salt to taste; mix with a well-beaten egg, and form into a roll.”
Does the early 1900s raw beef sandwich sound appetizing? Debatable. But it does give us insight into how our ancestors liked their sandwiches.