By Curtis Honeycutt
November begins the holiday season, but we don’t need to wait until the end of the month to celebrate. Although Thanksgiving is my top seven holidays of all time, let’s all remember to honor one of the most delicious holidays of the year: National Sandwich Day.
National Sandwich Day is celebrated on Nov. 3. It’s a day to honor the sandwich, one of the most versatile and delicious foods in the world. But did you know that the sandwich is named after a notorious gambler? And is a hot dog a sandwich?
The sandwich is named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718–1792). He was a notorious gambler and is said to have ordered meat between two slices of bread so that he could eat without having to leave the gambling table.
And thus, the sandwich was born.
The Sandwich Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean that are now part of the state of Hawaii. They were named after the Earl of Sandwich by Captain James Cook in 1778. While Captain Cook described the Sandwich Islands as “paradise on Earth,” I have been known to describe a good sandwich as “paradise between two slices of bread.”
Many sources say that the first recorded use of the idiom “best thing since sliced bread” was in 1952, when Red Skelton said it in an interview. However, it is possible that the idiom was used earlier than that, but there is no written record of it. Sliced bread was a major innovation at the time, as it made bread more convenient and easier to eat. It was also more hygienic, as it reduced the risk of contamination from handling the bread dough.
Keeping with sandwich lore, here are a few scrumptious sandwich origin stories:
The club sandwich is named after the Union Club in New York City, where it was invented in the late 19th century. Notable men (it was a boys’ club) who might have enjoyed a club sandwich at the Union Club include William Henry Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and FDR. I am picturing them shaking hands with one hand while eating a sandwich with the other.
The Reuben sandwich is named after Reuben Kulakofsky, a Lithuanian American grocer who invented it in Omaha, Neb. in the early 1920s. It is traditionally made with corned beef, pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye bread. The Reuben sandwich is so popular that it has its own national holiday: National Reuben Sandwich Day is celebrated on March 8 every year (so feel free to celebrate the Reuben twice if you’d like).
The Philly cheesesteak is said to have been invented by Pat Olivieri, a hot dog vendor in Philadelphia, in the 1930s. One day, Olivieri was feeling lazy and didn’t want to cook a hot dog. He looked around for something else to eat, and he saw a butcher slicing steak. Olivieri asked the butcher to slice the steak thinly, and then he grilled it up and put it on a roll with some onions.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve worked up quite the appetite while writing this. I’m going to get a head start on National Sandwich Day by making grilled cheese. Leave that last corner of your sandwich in honor of the patron saint of Sandwiches, John Montagu. May your mustard be spicy and your meats hearty, my fellow word nerds.
—Curtis Honeycutt is a wildly popular syndicated humor columnist. He is the author of Good Grammar is the Life of the Party: Tips for a Wildly Successful Life. Find more at curtishoneycutt.com.