By Mary Tucker

This story was prompted after ordering a breakfast sandwich in an Andes eatery and some very different types of sandwiches were recalled.

When England’s Earl of Sandwich had his valet put a piece of meat between two slices of bread, he started a trend that exists to this day. Others started asking for the same thing, saying “I’ll have what Sandwich is having.” It caught on and people began asking for “a Sandwich,” making the word an eponym – a word whose origin is a person or historical figure. If the English claim that they invented the sandwich, other countries disagree. The French say that long before the word ‘sandwich’ came into use, workers in the field and those going on a journey took meat or fish between two slices of bread with them. France claims the grilled cheese sandwich, a variation of a French recipe, made by buttering two slices of bread on one side, with ham and cheese in the center and frying it.

Our country gets into the act by claiming the hamburger: Four different states: Wisconsin, Texas, Connecticut and New York, say they invented it. The Wisconsin story has “Hamburger” Charlie Nagreen serving the world’s first hamburger, a flattened meatball between 2 slices of bread, at the Seymour Fair of 1885. He continued making and selling hamburgers until he was eighty years old and died in 1951, still claiming to be the first inventor of the hamburger.

Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas opened a lunch counter in the late 1880s after his pottery business slowed down. He sold an unnamed sandwich of ground beef between slices of bread. Davis and his wife sold this sandwich at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. Supposedly, the sandwich was given the name “hamburger” at the fair by the principally South German population of St. Louis as a derisive gesture toward the barbaric, ground meat eaters in Hamburg, Germany.  Connecticut-based sources claim that Louis Lassen invented the hamburger in New Haven, in 1880. Lassen first sold butter and eggs after emigrating from Denmark in 1880, then leased a lunch wagon in 1895, where he specialized in steak sandwiches using thin slices of meat. He took the trimmings home and ground them to serve as patties, first to his family then at his lunch wagon. Louis’ grandson, Kenneth, claims that they served the first hamburger in 1900. Their company, Louis Lunch, is still selling hamburgers from a small building in New Haven. Last of the four claimants is Hamburg, New York. Two brothers from Ohio, Charles and Frank Menches, traveled the circuit of fairs, races and community picnics in the 1880s selling the popular pork sausage sandwiches. While selling at the Erie County Fair, also known as the Hamburg Fair, they ran out of sausage. The Hamburg butcher did not have any sausage ready, but offered them ten pounds of chopped beef, which they made into patties. The legend contends that the name was given for the town of Hamburg, NY and has nothing to do with the story coming from Athens, Texas.

Now, back to sandwiches. Throughout the years we’ve had all types of filling in sandwiches, from eggs (egg salad, fried eggs, Easterns, Westerns, Denvers), different cheeses, meats and of course peanut butter and jelly. I could go on and on but let me tell you about some unusual sandwiches I’ve had. My Italian mother always made bread for the family which she used for our school lunches since the elementary school we attended did not serve lunch. She made fried potato sandwiches—Nora Cole said she took sliced,  boiled potatoes in her sandwiches—fried peppers, zucchini, jelly and sometimes cheese that my father made. Providing bag lunches for my eight children was a challenge – some interesting stories resulted. At Delaware Academy, bag lunches were stored in students’ lockers. After having his lunch stolen from his locker, one of my boys put a lot of salt on the sandwich and that was the end of missing lunches. My sons in high school also sold their lunches to friends, and then went to the snack shop across the way and ordered hamburgers.

Now for some unusual sandwiches: on a strawberry picking expedition we decided to bring peanut butter and jelly to eat on the way, but forgot the peanut butter and jelly. We did have bread and a bag of chips, so we made potato chip sandwiches – not as unique as you might think, since Neil from the coffee shop told me he has had them, too My cousin makes spaghetti sandwiches, cold spaghetti served on a bread of choice—not my cup of tea. How about a leftover stew sandwich—meat, carrots, potatoes, onions, gravy put through a food chopper, served on homemade bread, or a “banana dog”    – a banana sliced in half on top,  cherries in the middle, with peanut butter served on hot dog rolls—great for kids. Go ahead, invent a crazy sandwich and have some fun with it.

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