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Episode
19

British Food Part 4: The (Earl of) Sandwich

First published on
January 21, 2020
History
-
18
minutes
Food & drink
British class system
Life in the UK

It was called "Britain's biggest contribution to gastronomy" by the Wall Street Journal.

Today, in part 4 of our mini-series on British food, we're looking at the sandwich, the story behind it, why it is so important for people in Britain, and how it reached such an iconic status.

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Transcript

[00:00:02] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:09] I'm Alastair Budge and today it is part for the final part of our series on British food, of our little sojourn into some weird British culinary history. 

[00:00:23] Before we get right into it, I want to remind those of you listening to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iVoox, or wherever you get your podcasts that you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for the podcast on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:00:42] The transcripts are super helpful if you want to follow along, and the key vocabulary means that you'll discover a whole load of new words and you won't have to stop to look things up in a dictionary. 

[00:00:54] The introductory promotional price for becoming a member of Leonardo English will end at midnight on January the 31st so if you want tolock inthe introductory promotional price of just nine euros per month then make sure you become a member before then. 

[00:01:11] You can find out more at leonardoenglish.com forward slash subscribe.

[00:01:16] But to summarise, members get access to the transcript and key vocabulary for every podcast we have ever made, both on the website and now in lovely new downloadable PDF format so you can read it on the go, print out, share it with friends, or do whatever you want with it. 

[00:01:38] Okay. 

[00:01:39] We have already gone over some weird and wonderful stories from the world of British food. 

[00:01:47] We have covered oysters, fish and chips, and the English breakfast. 

[00:01:53] Today it is time for something a little different and you could say that we have saved the best for last.

[00:02:02] It's time to learn about what the Wall Street Journal called Britain's biggest contribution to gastronomy. 

[00:02:12] That's right, it's the sandwich. 

[00:02:16] It's time to learn about the sandwich, where it came from, who invented it, and why it became so popular. 

[00:02:26] As with everything on the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast, and I might also say, anything in life, to understand something properly, you need to understand where it comes from and the history behind it. 

[00:02:41] With the sandwich, it has a pretty interesting history, one that takes us back over 250 years.

[00:02:50] The sandwich, as we know it was popularised in England in 1762 by John Montagu, who was the fourth Earl of Sandwich. 

[00:03:03] The story goes that Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich was a serial, habitual gambler and used to spend hours at a time at the card table. 

[00:03:16] During a particularly long binge, a particularly long session at the card table, and with the card game at a point where he didn't feel he could get up from the table, he asked his cook to bring him something he could eat without getting up from his seat and which he could eat with one hand so he could continue to play his card game. 

[00:03:44] And the cook brought him some meat wrapped between two slices of bread, the first version of a dish we now know as the sandwich. 

[00:03:56] The sandwich had the advantage over a traditional meal in that it was something that he could hold in one hand while he held the cards in another. 

[00:04:11] Unfortunately, the history books don't record whether the invention of the sandwich was enough to bring the Earl of Sandwich victory at the cards table.

[00:04:22] I suspect not.

[00:04:24] In any case, Montagu enjoyed his meat and bread so much that he ate it all the time. 

[00:04:32] Montagu's official biography tells the story slightly differently, saying that his commitment to politics, the Navy and art meant that he could not leave his desk for lunch and so needed something he could eat whilst working.

[00:04:48] But this seems to me like someone who was just a bit embarrassed at the fact that he spent more time at the card table than at his desk. 

[00:04:58] I think you can make your own minds up as to which account you believe.

[00:05:03] In any case, his invention, if we can really call it an invention, grew popular in London's high society.

[00:05:13] It didn't really have a name, but people would just request "what Sandwich has", which was later just shortened to sandwich. 

[00:05:23] But this isn't to say that the Earl of Sandwich was some culinary genius who had this amazing idea of putting fillings between slices of bread. 

[00:05:36] Indeed, to us now it probably just seems obvious, right?

[00:05:41] It doesn't seem revolutionary at all. 

[00:05:44] And in your country, I guess, there may well be your variants that predate, that come earlier than, the Earl of Sandwich. 

[00:05:53] So Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, he didn't invent this out of thin air, out of nothing, he didn't just come up with the idea.

[00:06:03] We know that he traveled abroad to the Mediterranean where Turkish and Greek mezze platters were served, so dips, cheeses, and meats. They were all sandwiched, they were all put between, layers of bread. 

[00:06:20] And in all likelihood, Montagu took inspiration from these when he sat at that card table. 

[00:06:27] The sandwich took off and became very popular almost immediately. Within a few months of its creation, a man named Edward Gibbon mentioned the sandwich by name in a diary entry writing that he'd seen 20 or 30 of the first men of the kingdom in a restaurant eating them. 

[00:06:47] It was popular for some of the same reasons that it is now. It's tasty, quick to make, easy to eat, and pretty affordable.

[00:06:59] Some things never change. 

[00:07:02] In the UK, there were two major developments that really boosted the popularity of the sandwich, both of which I think might surprise you.  

[00:07:16] Firstly, in 1928, the invention of sliced bread, bread that comes pre-sliced. 

[00:07:25] Now sliced bread is the kind of thing that you might not think was invented as it seems just so obvious now. 

[00:07:34] Indeed, there is an expression in English that's the best thing since sliced bread, which you can use as a way of saying that something is really great. 

[00:07:46] But anyway, sliced bread was invented in 1928 and this made sandwiches just so much easier to make. 

[00:07:56] Cutting bread is a bit fiddly to do in a straight line, and so buying it pre-sliced made making sandwiches incredibly easy.

[00:08:10] Secondly, was the invention of the pre-made sandwich, which arrived in 1980 in Marks and Spencer, which is an iconic British department store.

[00:08:21] They used to serve sandwiches in their restaurant, and then one day at the end of the working day, instead of throwing away the leftover sandwiches, they wrapped them up and made them available for sale to the public.

[00:08:40] Now a little bit like sliced bread, you might think that the pre-packed sandwich seems so obvious and ask, why did it take so long for that to be invented?

[00:08:54] Well, the truth is that people just didn't think that it would sell because it was something that was so easy to make at home. 

[00:09:04] They didn't think that people would want to buy them pre-made and pre-packaged. 

[00:09:10] But they couldn't have been more wrong. 

[00:09:13] They were an immediate hit, an immediate success, as they suited the busy on the go life of many London workers. 

[00:09:25] And the popularity of the pre-made sandwich in the UK continues to grow.

[00:09:31] Nowadays, it is estimated that the sandwich industry is worth 8 billion pounds in the UK alone, and it employs over 300,000 people. 

[00:09:46] And it's quite a science getting the pre-packed sandwich, right. 

[00:09:50] It can't stay on the shelves for too long, and you need to get the right combination of ingredients, so that bread doesn't go too soggy or wet and disgusting, right?

[00:10:02] So obviously you can't just put a whole load of tomatoes right up against the bread, otherwise it'll get wet and horrible. 

[00:10:09] British supermarkets have got pretty good at making pre-packed sandwiches though. 

[00:10:15] Indeed, one travel hack, I guess we can call it a travel hack, but this is a travel hack for those of you visiting the UK, is that every British supermarket sells actually really good sandwiches ready to go. 

[00:10:32] If you are looking for something quick to eat and you want a tasty affordable meal, then just go into any supermarket and pick up a sandwich. 

[00:10:44] When I say this to friends from places like France or Italy, they are always surprised, as sandwiches that you get in supermarkets in those countries are, for want of a better word, disgusting, but in the UK, they really are pretty good. 

[00:11:02] So just trust me on this one. 

[00:11:05] Obviously it's not just in the UK that sandwiches are popular and I imagine that some form of sandwich is probably popular in your country.

[00:11:17] Nowhere are sandwiches more popular than in the US, where more than 300 million sandwiches are eaten every day. 

[00:11:29] But the Americans didn't immediately adopt the sandwich. 

[00:11:33] As you may know, when the founding fathers left Europe to found America, they wanted to leave the stuffy European archaic traditions behind.

[00:11:47] They wanted to build a new society starting from afresh. 

[00:11:53] And so the theory goes that the reason that Americans held off, they waited so long to adopt the sandwich was because it was associated with old aristocratic Britain, because of the Earl of Sandwich. It was exactly the opposite of everything that the founding fathers of the United States stood for.

[00:12:18] However, morals and principles can only be upheld for so long and sandwiches, well, they are pretty delicious. 

[00:12:27] The first record of a sandwich recipe appeared in an American cookbook in 1815 and from then the sandwich has just got more and more popular in America. 

[00:12:41] Now there are hundreds, thousands even, of different varieties.

[00:12:47] But when the sandwich was first eaten in America, the most popular version wasn't something you'd recognise today. 

[00:12:57] It wasn't meatballs, it wasn't turkey, ham or cheese or anything like that. 

[00:13:03] Can you guess what it might be? 

[00:13:05] Oh, I don't know if you'll guess, it was tongue. 

[00:13:08] Yes, that's the tongue of an animal.

[00:13:12] That seems gross right? 

[00:13:13] It seems gross to us today. I guess. 

[00:13:17] Luckily things have moved on since then, and sandwiches come in all different varieties. You may have heard of a Sloppy Joe, a Reuben, or a grilled cheese sandwich, which are some of the most popular in the US.

[00:13:34] In the UK though, probably the most iconic sandwich is something called the BLT, which stands for bacon, lettuce, and tomato. 

[00:13:46] Although you can find sandwiches in almost any possible shape or size. 

[00:13:52] Indeed, there is a Wikipedia page of a list of notable sandwiches and there are 219 on that. 

[00:14:01] I'll leave you to peruse that list at your leisure and you can create your own little bucket list of sandwiches if you really want.

[00:14:10] I'll put the link in the show notes. 

[00:14:13] On a personal note, my favourite sandwich has to be the one made at home on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. You basically just put all the leftovers from Christmas lunch in between two pieces of bread, so that's turkey, bread sauce, ham, cheese. 

[00:14:32] It's absolutely delicious, although I should admit that my brother is the real expert on this. 

[00:14:39] Okay. 

[00:14:40] With this comes the end of this mini-series on British food. 

[00:14:46] If you haven't checked out the other episodes and you are hungry for more, if you will pardon that terrible pun, then please do check them out. 

[00:14:56] Episode one is on oysters, an unlikely but very interesting food with a very important history for Britain. 

[00:15:04] Then episode two is about fish and chips and talks about the weird and wonderful history of that dish. 

[00:15:12] Episode three is about the English breakfast all 1,500 calories of it.

[00:15:20] One thing that I think we can all agree on is that British food isn't boring. 

[00:15:25] Yes, it might not have the same reputation as cuisines like French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, but it is full of fascinating history. 

[00:15:40] It's amazing how things change and how a food can go from being the food of the aristocracy and very rich through to being the food of the poor and of course vice versa. 

[00:15:58] This has been a really interesting series to make and I hope you have enjoyed it. 

[00:16:03] As always, thank you very much for listening to the show. 

[00:16:08] If you are looking for the key vocabulary and transcript for this podcast or for any of the others for that matter, you can grab those over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:16:21] The transcripts and key vocabulary are a big, big help for those of you that need a little helping hand and mean that you don't need to keep pausing and rewinding if you missed or didn't understand a word, and you don't have to look things up in a dictionary. 

[00:16:39] As a language learner myself, and having used this technique when learning French and Italian, I certainly know how useful they are. 

[00:16:48] And as I said, the promotional price for becoming a member and getting access to the transcripts and the key vocabulary for this podcast and for every podcast we've ever done is coming to an end at midnight on January the 31st so that's just 10 days from now.

[00:17:08] If you become a member before midnight on January the 31st then you will get that promotional price of just nine euros per month for as long as you are a member, which I hope will be a very long time. 

[00:17:22] And also, if you weren't aware, there's a 30 day no questions asked refund policy, so, if at any time within the first 30 days of being a member, you find that it hasn't met your expectations or you haven't been able to use it, just let me know, let the team know and you'll get a full refund. 

[00:17:42] That's how confident I am that you'll find them an amazingly useful resource for improving your listening and speaking skills. 

[00:17:52] Right, that's the sales pitch over. 

[00:17:55] I know it's useful, our current members know that they are very useful and you should just head to leonardoenglish.com/ subscribe and take a look for yourself.

[00:18:07] You've been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:12] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.



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[00:00:02] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:09] I'm Alastair Budge and today it is part for the final part of our series on British food, of our little sojourn into some weird British culinary history. 

[00:00:23] Before we get right into it, I want to remind those of you listening to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iVoox, or wherever you get your podcasts that you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for the podcast on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:00:42] The transcripts are super helpful if you want to follow along, and the key vocabulary means that you'll discover a whole load of new words and you won't have to stop to look things up in a dictionary. 

[00:00:54] The introductory promotional price for becoming a member of Leonardo English will end at midnight on January the 31st so if you want tolock inthe introductory promotional price of just nine euros per month then make sure you become a member before then. 

[00:01:11] You can find out more at leonardoenglish.com forward slash subscribe.

[00:01:16] But to summarise, members get access to the transcript and key vocabulary for every podcast we have ever made, both on the website and now in lovely new downloadable PDF format so you can read it on the go, print out, share it with friends, or do whatever you want with it. 

[00:01:38] Okay. 

[00:01:39] We have already gone over some weird and wonderful stories from the world of British food. 

[00:01:47] We have covered oysters, fish and chips, and the English breakfast. 

[00:01:53] Today it is time for something a little different and you could say that we have saved the best for last.

[00:02:02] It's time to learn about what the Wall Street Journal called Britain's biggest contribution to gastronomy. 

[00:02:12] That's right, it's the sandwich. 

[00:02:16] It's time to learn about the sandwich, where it came from, who invented it, and why it became so popular. 

[00:02:26] As with everything on the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast, and I might also say, anything in life, to understand something properly, you need to understand where it comes from and the history behind it. 

[00:02:41] With the sandwich, it has a pretty interesting history, one that takes us back over 250 years.

[00:02:50] The sandwich, as we know it was popularised in England in 1762 by John Montagu, who was the fourth Earl of Sandwich. 

[00:03:03] The story goes that Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich was a serial, habitual gambler and used to spend hours at a time at the card table. 

[00:03:16] During a particularly long binge, a particularly long session at the card table, and with the card game at a point where he didn't feel he could get up from the table, he asked his cook to bring him something he could eat without getting up from his seat and which he could eat with one hand so he could continue to play his card game. 

[00:03:44] And the cook brought him some meat wrapped between two slices of bread, the first version of a dish we now know as the sandwich. 

[00:03:56] The sandwich had the advantage over a traditional meal in that it was something that he could hold in one hand while he held the cards in another. 

[00:04:11] Unfortunately, the history books don't record whether the invention of the sandwich was enough to bring the Earl of Sandwich victory at the cards table.

[00:04:22] I suspect not.

[00:04:24] In any case, Montagu enjoyed his meat and bread so much that he ate it all the time. 

[00:04:32] Montagu's official biography tells the story slightly differently, saying that his commitment to politics, the Navy and art meant that he could not leave his desk for lunch and so needed something he could eat whilst working.

[00:04:48] But this seems to me like someone who was just a bit embarrassed at the fact that he spent more time at the card table than at his desk. 

[00:04:58] I think you can make your own minds up as to which account you believe.

[00:05:03] In any case, his invention, if we can really call it an invention, grew popular in London's high society.

[00:05:13] It didn't really have a name, but people would just request "what Sandwich has", which was later just shortened to sandwich. 

[00:05:23] But this isn't to say that the Earl of Sandwich was some culinary genius who had this amazing idea of putting fillings between slices of bread. 

[00:05:36] Indeed, to us now it probably just seems obvious, right?

[00:05:41] It doesn't seem revolutionary at all. 

[00:05:44] And in your country, I guess, there may well be your variants that predate, that come earlier than, the Earl of Sandwich. 

[00:05:53] So Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, he didn't invent this out of thin air, out of nothing, he didn't just come up with the idea.

[00:06:03] We know that he traveled abroad to the Mediterranean where Turkish and Greek mezze platters were served, so dips, cheeses, and meats. They were all sandwiched, they were all put between, layers of bread. 

[00:06:20] And in all likelihood, Montagu took inspiration from these when he sat at that card table. 

[00:06:27] The sandwich took off and became very popular almost immediately. Within a few months of its creation, a man named Edward Gibbon mentioned the sandwich by name in a diary entry writing that he'd seen 20 or 30 of the first men of the kingdom in a restaurant eating them. 

[00:06:47] It was popular for some of the same reasons that it is now. It's tasty, quick to make, easy to eat, and pretty affordable.

[00:06:59] Some things never change. 

[00:07:02] In the UK, there were two major developments that really boosted the popularity of the sandwich, both of which I think might surprise you.  

[00:07:16] Firstly, in 1928, the invention of sliced bread, bread that comes pre-sliced. 

[00:07:25] Now sliced bread is the kind of thing that you might not think was invented as it seems just so obvious now. 

[00:07:34] Indeed, there is an expression in English that's the best thing since sliced bread, which you can use as a way of saying that something is really great. 

[00:07:46] But anyway, sliced bread was invented in 1928 and this made sandwiches just so much easier to make. 

[00:07:56] Cutting bread is a bit fiddly to do in a straight line, and so buying it pre-sliced made making sandwiches incredibly easy.

[00:08:10] Secondly, was the invention of the pre-made sandwich, which arrived in 1980 in Marks and Spencer, which is an iconic British department store.

[00:08:21] They used to serve sandwiches in their restaurant, and then one day at the end of the working day, instead of throwing away the leftover sandwiches, they wrapped them up and made them available for sale to the public.

[00:08:40] Now a little bit like sliced bread, you might think that the pre-packed sandwich seems so obvious and ask, why did it take so long for that to be invented?

[00:08:54] Well, the truth is that people just didn't think that it would sell because it was something that was so easy to make at home. 

[00:09:04] They didn't think that people would want to buy them pre-made and pre-packaged. 

[00:09:10] But they couldn't have been more wrong. 

[00:09:13] They were an immediate hit, an immediate success, as they suited the busy on the go life of many London workers. 

[00:09:25] And the popularity of the pre-made sandwich in the UK continues to grow.

[00:09:31] Nowadays, it is estimated that the sandwich industry is worth 8 billion pounds in the UK alone, and it employs over 300,000 people. 

[00:09:46] And it's quite a science getting the pre-packed sandwich, right. 

[00:09:50] It can't stay on the shelves for too long, and you need to get the right combination of ingredients, so that bread doesn't go too soggy or wet and disgusting, right?

[00:10:02] So obviously you can't just put a whole load of tomatoes right up against the bread, otherwise it'll get wet and horrible. 

[00:10:09] British supermarkets have got pretty good at making pre-packed sandwiches though. 

[00:10:15] Indeed, one travel hack, I guess we can call it a travel hack, but this is a travel hack for those of you visiting the UK, is that every British supermarket sells actually really good sandwiches ready to go. 

[00:10:32] If you are looking for something quick to eat and you want a tasty affordable meal, then just go into any supermarket and pick up a sandwich. 

[00:10:44] When I say this to friends from places like France or Italy, they are always surprised, as sandwiches that you get in supermarkets in those countries are, for want of a better word, disgusting, but in the UK, they really are pretty good. 

[00:11:02] So just trust me on this one. 

[00:11:05] Obviously it's not just in the UK that sandwiches are popular and I imagine that some form of sandwich is probably popular in your country.

[00:11:17] Nowhere are sandwiches more popular than in the US, where more than 300 million sandwiches are eaten every day. 

[00:11:29] But the Americans didn't immediately adopt the sandwich. 

[00:11:33] As you may know, when the founding fathers left Europe to found America, they wanted to leave the stuffy European archaic traditions behind.

[00:11:47] They wanted to build a new society starting from afresh. 

[00:11:53] And so the theory goes that the reason that Americans held off, they waited so long to adopt the sandwich was because it was associated with old aristocratic Britain, because of the Earl of Sandwich. It was exactly the opposite of everything that the founding fathers of the United States stood for.

[00:12:18] However, morals and principles can only be upheld for so long and sandwiches, well, they are pretty delicious. 

[00:12:27] The first record of a sandwich recipe appeared in an American cookbook in 1815 and from then the sandwich has just got more and more popular in America. 

[00:12:41] Now there are hundreds, thousands even, of different varieties.

[00:12:47] But when the sandwich was first eaten in America, the most popular version wasn't something you'd recognise today. 

[00:12:57] It wasn't meatballs, it wasn't turkey, ham or cheese or anything like that. 

[00:13:03] Can you guess what it might be? 

[00:13:05] Oh, I don't know if you'll guess, it was tongue. 

[00:13:08] Yes, that's the tongue of an animal.

[00:13:12] That seems gross right? 

[00:13:13] It seems gross to us today. I guess. 

[00:13:17] Luckily things have moved on since then, and sandwiches come in all different varieties. You may have heard of a Sloppy Joe, a Reuben, or a grilled cheese sandwich, which are some of the most popular in the US.

[00:13:34] In the UK though, probably the most iconic sandwich is something called the BLT, which stands for bacon, lettuce, and tomato. 

[00:13:46] Although you can find sandwiches in almost any possible shape or size. 

[00:13:52] Indeed, there is a Wikipedia page of a list of notable sandwiches and there are 219 on that. 

[00:14:01] I'll leave you to peruse that list at your leisure and you can create your own little bucket list of sandwiches if you really want.

[00:14:10] I'll put the link in the show notes. 

[00:14:13] On a personal note, my favourite sandwich has to be the one made at home on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. You basically just put all the leftovers from Christmas lunch in between two pieces of bread, so that's turkey, bread sauce, ham, cheese. 

[00:14:32] It's absolutely delicious, although I should admit that my brother is the real expert on this. 

[00:14:39] Okay. 

[00:14:40] With this comes the end of this mini-series on British food. 

[00:14:46] If you haven't checked out the other episodes and you are hungry for more, if you will pardon that terrible pun, then please do check them out. 

[00:14:56] Episode one is on oysters, an unlikely but very interesting food with a very important history for Britain. 

[00:15:04] Then episode two is about fish and chips and talks about the weird and wonderful history of that dish. 

[00:15:12] Episode three is about the English breakfast all 1,500 calories of it.

[00:15:20] One thing that I think we can all agree on is that British food isn't boring. 

[00:15:25] Yes, it might not have the same reputation as cuisines like French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, but it is full of fascinating history. 

[00:15:40] It's amazing how things change and how a food can go from being the food of the aristocracy and very rich through to being the food of the poor and of course vice versa. 

[00:15:58] This has been a really interesting series to make and I hope you have enjoyed it. 

[00:16:03] As always, thank you very much for listening to the show. 

[00:16:08] If you are looking for the key vocabulary and transcript for this podcast or for any of the others for that matter, you can grab those over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:16:21] The transcripts and key vocabulary are a big, big help for those of you that need a little helping hand and mean that you don't need to keep pausing and rewinding if you missed or didn't understand a word, and you don't have to look things up in a dictionary. 

[00:16:39] As a language learner myself, and having used this technique when learning French and Italian, I certainly know how useful they are. 

[00:16:48] And as I said, the promotional price for becoming a member and getting access to the transcripts and the key vocabulary for this podcast and for every podcast we've ever done is coming to an end at midnight on January the 31st so that's just 10 days from now.

[00:17:08] If you become a member before midnight on January the 31st then you will get that promotional price of just nine euros per month for as long as you are a member, which I hope will be a very long time. 

[00:17:22] And also, if you weren't aware, there's a 30 day no questions asked refund policy, so, if at any time within the first 30 days of being a member, you find that it hasn't met your expectations or you haven't been able to use it, just let me know, let the team know and you'll get a full refund. 

[00:17:42] That's how confident I am that you'll find them an amazingly useful resource for improving your listening and speaking skills. 

[00:17:52] Right, that's the sales pitch over. 

[00:17:55] I know it's useful, our current members know that they are very useful and you should just head to leonardoenglish.com/ subscribe and take a look for yourself.

[00:18:07] You've been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:12] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.



[00:00:02] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:09] I'm Alastair Budge and today it is part for the final part of our series on British food, of our little sojourn into some weird British culinary history. 

[00:00:23] Before we get right into it, I want to remind those of you listening to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iVoox, or wherever you get your podcasts that you can grab a copy of the transcript and key vocabulary for the podcast on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

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[00:01:38] Okay. 

[00:01:39] We have already gone over some weird and wonderful stories from the world of British food. 

[00:01:47] We have covered oysters, fish and chips, and the English breakfast. 

[00:01:53] Today it is time for something a little different and you could say that we have saved the best for last.

[00:02:02] It's time to learn about what the Wall Street Journal called Britain's biggest contribution to gastronomy. 

[00:02:12] That's right, it's the sandwich. 

[00:02:16] It's time to learn about the sandwich, where it came from, who invented it, and why it became so popular. 

[00:02:26] As with everything on the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast, and I might also say, anything in life, to understand something properly, you need to understand where it comes from and the history behind it. 

[00:02:41] With the sandwich, it has a pretty interesting history, one that takes us back over 250 years.

[00:02:50] The sandwich, as we know it was popularised in England in 1762 by John Montagu, who was the fourth Earl of Sandwich. 

[00:03:03] The story goes that Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich was a serial, habitual gambler and used to spend hours at a time at the card table. 

[00:03:16] During a particularly long binge, a particularly long session at the card table, and with the card game at a point where he didn't feel he could get up from the table, he asked his cook to bring him something he could eat without getting up from his seat and which he could eat with one hand so he could continue to play his card game. 

[00:03:44] And the cook brought him some meat wrapped between two slices of bread, the first version of a dish we now know as the sandwich. 

[00:03:56] The sandwich had the advantage over a traditional meal in that it was something that he could hold in one hand while he held the cards in another. 

[00:04:11] Unfortunately, the history books don't record whether the invention of the sandwich was enough to bring the Earl of Sandwich victory at the cards table.

[00:04:22] I suspect not.

[00:04:24] In any case, Montagu enjoyed his meat and bread so much that he ate it all the time. 

[00:04:32] Montagu's official biography tells the story slightly differently, saying that his commitment to politics, the Navy and art meant that he could not leave his desk for lunch and so needed something he could eat whilst working.

[00:04:48] But this seems to me like someone who was just a bit embarrassed at the fact that he spent more time at the card table than at his desk. 

[00:04:58] I think you can make your own minds up as to which account you believe.

[00:05:03] In any case, his invention, if we can really call it an invention, grew popular in London's high society.

[00:05:13] It didn't really have a name, but people would just request "what Sandwich has", which was later just shortened to sandwich. 

[00:05:23] But this isn't to say that the Earl of Sandwich was some culinary genius who had this amazing idea of putting fillings between slices of bread. 

[00:05:36] Indeed, to us now it probably just seems obvious, right?

[00:05:41] It doesn't seem revolutionary at all. 

[00:05:44] And in your country, I guess, there may well be your variants that predate, that come earlier than, the Earl of Sandwich. 

[00:05:53] So Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, he didn't invent this out of thin air, out of nothing, he didn't just come up with the idea.

[00:06:03] We know that he traveled abroad to the Mediterranean where Turkish and Greek mezze platters were served, so dips, cheeses, and meats. They were all sandwiched, they were all put between, layers of bread. 

[00:06:20] And in all likelihood, Montagu took inspiration from these when he sat at that card table. 

[00:06:27] The sandwich took off and became very popular almost immediately. Within a few months of its creation, a man named Edward Gibbon mentioned the sandwich by name in a diary entry writing that he'd seen 20 or 30 of the first men of the kingdom in a restaurant eating them. 

[00:06:47] It was popular for some of the same reasons that it is now. It's tasty, quick to make, easy to eat, and pretty affordable.

[00:06:59] Some things never change. 

[00:07:02] In the UK, there were two major developments that really boosted the popularity of the sandwich, both of which I think might surprise you.  

[00:07:16] Firstly, in 1928, the invention of sliced bread, bread that comes pre-sliced. 

[00:07:25] Now sliced bread is the kind of thing that you might not think was invented as it seems just so obvious now. 

[00:07:34] Indeed, there is an expression in English that's the best thing since sliced bread, which you can use as a way of saying that something is really great. 

[00:07:46] But anyway, sliced bread was invented in 1928 and this made sandwiches just so much easier to make. 

[00:07:56] Cutting bread is a bit fiddly to do in a straight line, and so buying it pre-sliced made making sandwiches incredibly easy.

[00:08:10] Secondly, was the invention of the pre-made sandwich, which arrived in 1980 in Marks and Spencer, which is an iconic British department store.

[00:08:21] They used to serve sandwiches in their restaurant, and then one day at the end of the working day, instead of throwing away the leftover sandwiches, they wrapped them up and made them available for sale to the public.

[00:08:40] Now a little bit like sliced bread, you might think that the pre-packed sandwich seems so obvious and ask, why did it take so long for that to be invented?

[00:08:54] Well, the truth is that people just didn't think that it would sell because it was something that was so easy to make at home. 

[00:09:04] They didn't think that people would want to buy them pre-made and pre-packaged. 

[00:09:10] But they couldn't have been more wrong. 

[00:09:13] They were an immediate hit, an immediate success, as they suited the busy on the go life of many London workers. 

[00:09:25] And the popularity of the pre-made sandwich in the UK continues to grow.

[00:09:31] Nowadays, it is estimated that the sandwich industry is worth 8 billion pounds in the UK alone, and it employs over 300,000 people. 

[00:09:46] And it's quite a science getting the pre-packed sandwich, right. 

[00:09:50] It can't stay on the shelves for too long, and you need to get the right combination of ingredients, so that bread doesn't go too soggy or wet and disgusting, right?

[00:10:02] So obviously you can't just put a whole load of tomatoes right up against the bread, otherwise it'll get wet and horrible. 

[00:10:09] British supermarkets have got pretty good at making pre-packed sandwiches though. 

[00:10:15] Indeed, one travel hack, I guess we can call it a travel hack, but this is a travel hack for those of you visiting the UK, is that every British supermarket sells actually really good sandwiches ready to go. 

[00:10:32] If you are looking for something quick to eat and you want a tasty affordable meal, then just go into any supermarket and pick up a sandwich. 

[00:10:44] When I say this to friends from places like France or Italy, they are always surprised, as sandwiches that you get in supermarkets in those countries are, for want of a better word, disgusting, but in the UK, they really are pretty good. 

[00:11:02] So just trust me on this one. 

[00:11:05] Obviously it's not just in the UK that sandwiches are popular and I imagine that some form of sandwich is probably popular in your country.

[00:11:17] Nowhere are sandwiches more popular than in the US, where more than 300 million sandwiches are eaten every day. 

[00:11:29] But the Americans didn't immediately adopt the sandwich. 

[00:11:33] As you may know, when the founding fathers left Europe to found America, they wanted to leave the stuffy European archaic traditions behind.

[00:11:47] They wanted to build a new society starting from afresh. 

[00:11:53] And so the theory goes that the reason that Americans held off, they waited so long to adopt the sandwich was because it was associated with old aristocratic Britain, because of the Earl of Sandwich. It was exactly the opposite of everything that the founding fathers of the United States stood for.

[00:12:18] However, morals and principles can only be upheld for so long and sandwiches, well, they are pretty delicious. 

[00:12:27] The first record of a sandwich recipe appeared in an American cookbook in 1815 and from then the sandwich has just got more and more popular in America. 

[00:12:41] Now there are hundreds, thousands even, of different varieties.

[00:12:47] But when the sandwich was first eaten in America, the most popular version wasn't something you'd recognise today. 

[00:12:57] It wasn't meatballs, it wasn't turkey, ham or cheese or anything like that. 

[00:13:03] Can you guess what it might be? 

[00:13:05] Oh, I don't know if you'll guess, it was tongue. 

[00:13:08] Yes, that's the tongue of an animal.

[00:13:12] That seems gross right? 

[00:13:13] It seems gross to us today. I guess. 

[00:13:17] Luckily things have moved on since then, and sandwiches come in all different varieties. You may have heard of a Sloppy Joe, a Reuben, or a grilled cheese sandwich, which are some of the most popular in the US.

[00:13:34] In the UK though, probably the most iconic sandwich is something called the BLT, which stands for bacon, lettuce, and tomato. 

[00:13:46] Although you can find sandwiches in almost any possible shape or size. 

[00:13:52] Indeed, there is a Wikipedia page of a list of notable sandwiches and there are 219 on that. 

[00:14:01] I'll leave you to peruse that list at your leisure and you can create your own little bucket list of sandwiches if you really want.

[00:14:10] I'll put the link in the show notes. 

[00:14:13] On a personal note, my favourite sandwich has to be the one made at home on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. You basically just put all the leftovers from Christmas lunch in between two pieces of bread, so that's turkey, bread sauce, ham, cheese. 

[00:14:32] It's absolutely delicious, although I should admit that my brother is the real expert on this. 

[00:14:39] Okay. 

[00:14:40] With this comes the end of this mini-series on British food. 

[00:14:46] If you haven't checked out the other episodes and you are hungry for more, if you will pardon that terrible pun, then please do check them out. 

[00:14:56] Episode one is on oysters, an unlikely but very interesting food with a very important history for Britain. 

[00:15:04] Then episode two is about fish and chips and talks about the weird and wonderful history of that dish. 

[00:15:12] Episode three is about the English breakfast all 1,500 calories of it.

[00:15:20] One thing that I think we can all agree on is that British food isn't boring. 

[00:15:25] Yes, it might not have the same reputation as cuisines like French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, but it is full of fascinating history. 

[00:15:40] It's amazing how things change and how a food can go from being the food of the aristocracy and very rich through to being the food of the poor and of course vice versa. 

[00:15:58] This has been a really interesting series to make and I hope you have enjoyed it. 

[00:16:03] As always, thank you very much for listening to the show. 

[00:16:08] If you are looking for the key vocabulary and transcript for this podcast or for any of the others for that matter, you can grab those over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

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[00:18:07] You've been listening to the English Learning for Curious Minds podcast by Leonardo English. 

[00:18:12] I'm Alastair Budge and I will catch you in the next episode.