Monday, June 3, 2013


As the poet said, a day without a sandwich is like a day without sunshine, though since I’ve lived much of my life in England, I’ve experienced a great many days without sunshine, rather fewer without a sandwich.  There’s a lot of slightly wearisome debate about whether or not John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was actually the inventor (I think we can safely say he wasn’t), but as John Ford would have it, when in doubt, print the legend.  Should you walk along 52nd Street in New York these days you will come across a sandwich shop named after the eponymous Earl (and in fact I suppose also the current earl, who shares the same title).

  There are Earl of Sandwich shops in other places in America too, including various casinos and at Disneyland.  The menu features something called The Original 1762, which is a registered trade mark apparently, and consists of beef, sharp cheddar and “horseradish sauce” on a bun.  This is what it looks like:

This seems a bit anachronistic: by all accounts the Earl’s first sandwich was beef between slices of toasted bread.  And how the old aristo would have reacted to the “Cannonballs!” sandwich or the All American - Turkey, sharp cheddar, cranberries, lettuce, tomato & ranch dressing, is anybody’s guess.

Perhaps he might have liked the Hawaiian BBQ (that's it above)  – since he also gave his name to the Sandwich Islands, later known as Hawaii.  But let’s face it, he wasn’t a squeamish man - he was supposedly a member of the Hellfire Club - so I’m guessing he'd have able to take even the Thai wrap and the triple chocolate brownies in his stride.  His face appears in the picture below, Hogarth’s portrait of Francis Dashwood: that’s Sandwich peering through the halo above Dashwood’s head.

As readers of this blog will know, I’m always saying that one day I intend to write a vast work of abstruse and encyclopedic scholarship, to be called something like The Anatomy of the Sandwich (as a nod toward Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy).  With this in mind, I continually collect, or at least accumulate, all kinds of information, old and new, about the sandwich in its many varieties. 

I lately came across these ads for the Manwich, something unknown in the Earl’s and my native land.  I know it’s a commercial form of Sloppy Joe, though that’s something unknown in England too.

I think their slogan is pretty clever, “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal,” but I beg to differ.  A good sandwich IS a meal.  The Manwich was introduced in 1969, though these ads I believe are from 1971, embracing a little light-weight psychedelia, and already looking a bit square.  By 1972 they seemed to have gone retro: the lady on the can below looks very much the kind of woman Don Draper would go for.

And then, being on a roll (so to speak) with the sandwich, I found this, by the great Michael Kupperman, who is able and inclined to mock anything and everything, so of course he’s turned his attention to the sandwich.

You know, now that I think about it, I’ll bet there are a LOT of sandwiches the government doesn’t want me to know about.

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