While the concept of putting meat or cheese between two pieces of bread and heading out the door to the fields or other destinations may date from very early in history, actual instructions for making sandwiches don’t appear in print until the third quarter of the 18th century.  Below are some of the first references for sandwiches of various fillings.

Medieval trenchers of bread on which foods were served, the bread to be eaten or not as desired, were in essence the forerunners of the open-faced sandwich. 

Scotch woodcock sandwich
Scotch woodcock sandwich

Charlotte Mason published a receipt for sandwiches in 1787 in which one was told to put some thin slices of beef between thin slices of bread and butter.  If preferred thin slices of veal or ham could be used instead of the beef.  – The Lady’s Assistant for Regulating and Supplying the Table.

SANDWICH OF FILLET OF FOWL AU SUPREME.  Cut off the fillets of as many fowls as will supply the party intended to be given.  Twelve fowls will give you sandwiches enough for a large assembly.  Twelve au supreme are sufficient.  First make the bechemel well seasoned* …mark the fillets in a saute-pan with very little butter dip the fillets in melted butter, put them in the saute-pan powder a little salt over them, and saute them two hours  before you can make use of them, to have them quite cold when you cut up.  When you make the sandwiches, slice the fillets as thin as possible without trimming them.  Take them up very thin, and leave them one upon another to prevent their getting dry, for sandwiches should not be made till late in the evening, otherwise the bread will become dry, and they will be good for nothing.  When you begin to make the sandwiches, (which you should not do till towards nine o’clock, to serve up at twelve,) lay two bits of bread side by side, spread upon them a very little of the bechamel then put the white of the fowl on one of the bits of bread, with al ittle salt, and put the other piece on the same way as before so that they may join well:  cut the sandwich in half only.  Serve on silver plates; one sandwich upon another, a little turned, but do not try to innovate or improve by attempting to serve them miroton-way, when the plate is reasonably filled.  Ude, Louis Eustache.  The French Cook.  1829.  London.

The preceding source offered recipes for sandwiches of fillets of pheasant, fillets of sole, anchovies, and salad (green herbs).

An 1823 book advised that hot suppers were, “not much in use”, where people were prone to eating late, which explains the instructions above for having the sandwiches ready to serve at midnight.  – Radcliffe, A Modern System of Domestic Cookery.

Two years earlier (1827) Domestic Economy and Cookery for Rich and Poor   instructed the cook to make Anchovy Sandwiches by spreading anchovy paste on bread, topping with a seconc slice of bread, and trimming the crusts. 

For Ham Sandwiches the same source recommended mixing cheese and butter, seasoning agreeably, and adding thin slices of ham, tongue, redded beef or bacon.   A Common Sandwich was made by layering sliced ham, redded beef, or tongue, laid neatly between two slices of bread and butter, with mustard if wanted. 

Shrimp sandwiches were quite appealing made from potted shrimps or shrimp butter.  “Butter the bread, and arrange the shrimps, press together, and cut them neatly.”  Oyster and lobster butter were recommended to make elegant sandwiches; and egg-butter “answers well” with minced or pounded anchovies.  “Fish sandwiches are the lightest; sprinkle them with anchovy essence”. 

Radcliff suggested sandwiches could be made from a long list of suggestions he gave for cold suppers which included game, fowl, rabbits, fish, oysters, small birds, cutlets, cold tongue, ham, collared things, Hunter’s beef sliced, rusks buttered with anchovies, grated hung beef with butter, grated cheese, potted meats, crabs, lobsters, prawns, crayfish, etc.  (1823)

Anchovies could be boned and pounded in a mortar with butter to make the anchovy paste for sandwiches.  Some sources suggested toasting the bread for the sandwiches.  – Hunter, Alexander.  Culina Famulatrix Medicinae.  1806.

Christian Johnstone gave detailed suggestions for making sandwiches of various sorts.  The Cook and Housewife’s Manual.  1828.

These are a convenient and economical, but, at the same time, a rather suspicious order of culinary preparations, especially in hotels and public gardens; they are therefore getting into disrepute.  Sandwiches may be made of ham or tongue sliced, grated, or scraped:  of German or common pork sausage, cold salted rump, anchovies, shrimps, sprats, potted cheese, or hard yolks of egg and Parmesan or Cheshire cheese pounded with butter:  forcemeat, and potted meat of various kinds, cold poultry, with whatever seasonings of mustard, currie-powder, &c. &c. are most suitable to the meat with which the sandwich is made.  The only particular directions that can be given are, to have them fresh-made, and to cut the bread in neat even slices, of any shapes that are fancied, and not too large or thick.

That book told the cook to prepare a Cheese-Sandwich by mixing two-thirds of grated Parmesan or Cheshire cheese and one part butter with a small portion of prepared mustard, and covering slices of bread with the cheese mixture and thin slices of ham, or any cured meat; and covering with a second slice of bread.  Mixing an anchovy into the potted cheese mixture was optional, per the discretion of the cook.

By the 1840’s bakers were selling what they termed sandwich loaves which attests to the popularity of various sandwiches by that time.  As the century progressed more and more types of sandwiches and recipes for making them were included in cookery books.  By the 1920’s and 30’s specialty sandwiches were becoming a part of regional cuisine in cities throughout the U.S. 

Blissful Meals, Yall, The Historic Foodie

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