An Ode to the Sandwich

Last week’s British Sandwich Awards have got our mind firmly between two slices of bread, so today we’ve penned an ode to this humble treat and its many incarnations. From po-boys to paninis, burgers to baguettes, and wraps to rolls; if you put it between bread, it counts. Most cultures in the world have something that fits into this category. And almost all of them are delicious.

As with so much else, we are proud to take credit for the invention of the sandwich, but just as happy to admit that you guys have taken it to whole other levels. The burger is a phenomenon: a symbol, and object of national identity; while if it’s quantity you’re after, a deli wrap beats a finger sandwich any day.

Simplicity is the sandwich’s key ingredient. As such, examples can be found throughout history. But the quintessential British form –  in all its dainty deliciousness – originated in the late 17th century, taking its name a hundred years later from John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. After he ordered a dish of meat tucked between two pieces of bread, others began to order “the same as Sandwich“, and his place in culinary history was sealed.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

Just as the American burger is eaten by all, the British sandwich is a most democratic meal. Whether two slices of supermarket bread containing wafer thin ham, or a hunk of home baked artisan loaf encasing slabs of hand-reared boar from the estate, every Brit (pauper and gent alike) will at some point partake in the glorious pleasure of the sandwich.

The Brits invented Apple Pie!

We love Momma’s ol’ fashioned, home-baked, US apple pie as much as the next person, but we couldn’t keep this to ourselves. While digging around for some British baking inspiration, we came across a revelatory discovery: the Brits invented apple pie! It turns out the first reference to the irresistible combination of sugared pastry and apples was by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1381:

Chaucer was a poet in the Middle Ages, better known for his somewhat salacious accounts of British life, but it seems he was also a dab hand in the kitchen.

We don’t mean to gloat (we realise we’re in the minority here) and to claim apple pie as our own would be madness: it is more American than a cowboy in a KFC. Rather, we see this as a celebration of our shared history and culture. Brits and Americans after all are cousins, and it makes sense that we have the same good taste, whether it be for apple pie, or Shepherd’s!

Could you make room for a Union Jack in there?

Now, who remembers the controversy we caused with the baseball allegations?

Mrs Beeton: the godmother of British cookery… and the original Martha Stewart!

Isabella Beeton, 1836-1865

Born in 1836 in Cheapside, East London, Isabella Beeton is remembered to this day as one of the most influential cookery writers of all time.Her seminal book Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management gave advice on all important aspects of running a household, from fashion, childcare, animal husbandry and the management of servants to notes on science, religion and industrialism. At over 1,112 pages long, the book contained 900 recipes and Mrs Beeton was a keen advocate of the use of local and seasonal produce; ideas which we at Tea & Sympathy hold dear.

Original cover of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, first published in 1851.

Pretty much every cookery great since – see Elizabeth David, Julia Child, Delia Smith and Martha Stewart – owe something to this amazing woman. The book is also remarkable for its beautiful illustrations. We thought we’d treat you today with a few our favourites, which define vintage chic as well as make our mouths water!

And that all British classic: the Christmas plum pudding. Beautiful – to the taste buds and the eyes!