A sandwich is a food typically consisting of vegetables, sliced cheese or meat, placed on or between slices of bread, or more generally any dish wherein bread serves as a container or wrapper for another food type. The sandwich began as a portable finger food in the Western world, though over time it has become prevalent worldwide. The 3rd of November marks the National Sandwich Day.
Sandwiches are a popular type of lunch food, taken to work, school, or picnics to be eaten as part of a packed lunch. The bread may be plain or be coated with condiments, such as mayonnaise or mustard, to enhance its flavour and texture. As well as being homemade, sandwiches are also widely sold in restaurants and can be served hot or cold. There are both savoury sandwiches, such as deli meat sandwiches, and sweet sandwiches, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The modern concept of a sandwich using slices of bread as found within the West can arguably be traced to 18th-century Europe. However, the use of some kind of bread or bread-like substance to lie under (or under and over) some other food, or used to scoop up and enclose or wrap some other type of food, long predates the eighteenth century, and is found in numerous much older cultures worldwide.
Initially perceived as food that men shared while gaming and drinking at night, the sandwich slowly began appearing in polite society as a late-night meal among the aristocracy. The sandwich's popularity in Spain and England increased dramatically during the nineteenth century, when the rise of industrial society and the working classes made fast, portable, and inexpensive meals essential. In London, for example, at least seventy street vendors were selling ham sandwiches by 1850; during that decade sandwich bars also became an important form of eating establishment in western Holland, typically serving liver and salt beef sandwiches.
In the United States, a court in Boston, Massachusetts, ruled in 2006 that a sandwich includes at least two slices of bread and "under this definition, this court finds that the term 'sandwich' is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans." The issue stemmed from the question of whether a restaurant that sold burritos could move into a shopping centre where another restaurant had a no-compete clause in its lease prohibiting other "sandwich" shops.
In the United Kingdom and Australia, the term sandwich is more narrowly defined than in the United States: it refers only to an item which uses sliced bread from a loaf. An item with similar fillings, but using an entire bread roll cut horizontally in half, is always referred to as a roll. (In South Australia, there is a regional variant of the roll, superficially similar to a club sandwich, where the bread roll is sliced three times with parallel cuts, and filling is put in the first and third openings, but not the second. This makes the resulting double cut roll easier to handle: the top half and the bottom half are eaten separately.) Any hot item based on a bread roll is referred to as a burger, never as a sandwich. However, hot sliced (not ground) beef between two slices of toasted bread is referred to as a steak sandwich: it is the sliced loaf bread that distinguishes the steak sandwich from a burger.
It has been suggested that UK's first pre-made packaged sandwiches were sold by Marks & Spencer in 1980. As they proved wildly popular, a small experiment involving five stores rapidly grew to cover more than one hundred stores. Within a year, the store was looking for ways to manufacture sandwiches at an industrial scale. However, the first pre-packed sandwiches date from well before this. British Home Stores sold pre-packed sandwiches in the 1960s (see the Radio Times 3 November 2018 p. 167), and earlier even than that, Marks and Spencer (Brighton branch) began selling them in the 1950s, and then in the 1960s in the Oxford Street branch, London. (See the Radio Times 10 November 2018 p. 160).