The Interesting Origin of 12 Sandwiches

Melissa 1
reubonLions of the culinary world, the inventors of our favorite sandwiches have left a lasting legacy of portability and deliciousness. To honor their contributions to our collective satiety, we’re taking a moment to reflect on some of the sandwich world’s greatest creations… prepare to get hungry.

Club

A marvel of sandwich construction, the Club Sandwich consists of three slices of white toast making two layers, each holding bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on top of either turkey, chicken or roast beef.

Although subject to disagreement, most agree that this classic originated in resorts and country clubs in the latter half of the 19th century. One popular theory holds that it was invented at the Saratoga Club House, a popular and fairly exclusive gambling house in New York.  It is supposed to have been first developed at this location around 1894.  Another attributes it to the 1903 book, Conversations of a Chorus Girl, though it should be noted that one of the first documented records of the sandwich appeared in an 1889 menu at the Steamer Rhode Island restaurant, where it was called as we know it today, a Club Sandwich. A third popular theory can also be easily discounted owing to the dates, but the theory is that it was named after the two-storied club cars of trains from the 1930s and 1940s.

Although most prepare this sandwich according to the classic recipe, one light-hearted (and light-headed) gourmet suggested this twist in 1907: “Go to the club. Drink six toasts. Eat a slice of meat. Drink six more toasts.”

Croque-Monsieur

Originating in a café on the Boulevard de Capucines in Paris in 1910, the Croque-Monsieur is essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. But, since it’s a French grilled sandwich, its made with lean ham, Gruyere or Emmental cheese, and then, after it’s pan fried like grilled cheese, covered in a warm béchamel sauce. Delicieux!

French for Crusty or Crispy Mister, depending on whom you ask, this sandwich is as famous for its variants as well as its original. With added tomato, it is the Croque-Provencal, and with mustard and topped with a fried egg, it is a Croque-Madame. Other versions substitute ingredients with delightful results, including the Croque Auvergnat, which replaces the mild cheese with a Bleu, and the Croque Norvegien, which uses salmon in place of the ham.

Dagwood

Named after Dagwood, the patriarch of the Bumstead family in the popular comic strip Blondie, the Dagwood Sandwich was first seen in the 1930s. The only requirement for making this monstrosity is that it be comprised of a wide variety of ingredients, all foraged from leftovers and other things hidden about the kitchen; apparently, for aficionados, the more disparate the ingredients are in taste and texture, the better.

Although no formal recipe exists, some have tried. Emeril Lagasse has one with 19 ingredients, and iChef’s version includes cold spaghetti, 2-day old fish, lobster tail and bacon (cooked or raw)… yum?

Grinder/Hero/Hoagie/Sub

The hero has a thousand faces, or at least four. Like the Dagwood, there are an infinite number of combinations of meats, cheeses, condiments, vegetables and pickled things that can be found on one of these guys.

The Grinder arose in New England and, according to one account, was named after the dockworkers whose jobs involved a lot of noisy grinding to repair and refurbish the ships. Others attribute the name to the amount of chewing and grinding it took to work through the crusty Italian bread and tough meats on the typical sandwich.

Born in the Big Apple, many believe the Hero Sandwich was named by food columnist, Clementine Paddleworth in 1936 when she noted, “you had to be a hero to eat it.” However, the Oxford English Dictionary credits the naming to armored car guards.

Philadelphia chose the name Hoagie for its version. Most claim that the name came originally from Al De Palma who thought that a person “had to be a hog” to eat such a large sandwich. When he opened his own sandwich place during the Great Depression, Al called his big subs “hoggies.” It is assumed that the strong Philadelphia accent changed the pronunciation, and eventually, the spelling.

Although the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the Submarine Sandwich was around by 1940, many, especially in Connecticut, believe it originated in New London during World War II (then home to a Navy shipyard). Reportedly invented by an Italian shopkeeper who crafted the sandwich out of oblong bread, its resemblance to the nearby submarines was not lost on his patrons.

Gyro

Greek for “turn,” the Gyro derived its name from the method used to cook the meat in the sandwich, which revolves on a vertical spit. The typical sandwich includes a large portion of thinly sliced gyro meat, tomato, onion, feta cheese and tzatziki sauce, rolled into an oiled and lightly grilled, thick pita.

Gryo meat is traditionally made with lamb, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs, ground together into a paste, then packed together and slow cooked. Tzatziki sauce is made by straining yogurt and mixing it with finely chopped and strained cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, dill and salt.

Hot Dog

There are several theories about the origin of the name of the “dog kids love to bite.” Some ascribe the name to the frankfurter’s resemblance to dachshund dogs, both introduced to America in the 19th century by German immigrants; one variant of this holds that a cartoonist for the New York Evening Journal, who drew a picture of a dachshund in a hot dog bun around 1901, is responsible for the name. Another theory holds that it was named after a prominent vendor in New Jersey in the late 1800s, Thomas Francis Xavier “Hot Dog” Morris.

However, the cartoon, supposedly drawn by T.A. Dorgan during a New York Giants baseball game at the Polo Grounds, doesn’t seem to exist. At this game, he supposedly observed a vendor, Harry Stevens, selling “hot dachshund sausages”. Dorgan, being inspired by this, drew a dachshund in a hot dog bun, but didn’t know how to spell dachshund, so just wrote “hot dog”.  To date, no record of the cartoon in question has ever been found which would be odd given it supposedly was so popular it coined the name among the masses.

But whether it ever existed or not doesn’t matter; the term “hot dog”, referring to a form of sausage in a bun, had been commonly known at least 10 years before Dorgan supposedly drew that cartoon. Specifically, the first documented references to “hot dogs” were in a September 28, 1893 Knoxville Journal and in an October 19, 1895 edition of the Yale Record that contained a reference to “The Kennel Club”, which was a lunch wagon on campus that sold hot sausages in buns, which were referred to as “hot dogs”.

So where did the term “hot dog” actually come from? Dating back at least as early as the 1880s, it is thought that it became common to call sausages “dogs”, due to the fact that people never knew exactly what meat was included in the sausages they were buying. Around that time, there were a lot of rumors that horse and dog meat were being commonly used to make sausages (there was even a song about this written in 1860 and the first documented accusations of dog meat being used in sausages is from 1845).

Though the university student’s clearly didn’t invent the name, it is thought that it was college students that popularized the name as referring to hot sausages in buns. Around this time, lunch wagons serving hot sausages in buns became common on college campuses (the bun being added so people could eat the hot sausages while they walked between classes). These lunch wagons were somewhat similar in quality of food to modern day “roach coaches”, so the students took to calling them “dog wagons” with their product being “hot dogs”, referring to the rumor that low-quality sausages were made from dog meat.

In any event, depending on where you live, there is a right and a wrong way to eat a hot dog. In Chicago, it is a third degree misdemeanor (not really) to put ketchup on a hot dog; rather, in the City of the Big Shoulders, one should smother his dog with, at a minimum, yellow mustard, neon green relish and onion (some also add tomato wedges, pickle, peppers and celery salt).

On the other hand, New Yorkers put less stuff on their dogs, since it’s designed to be eaten on the run. The traditional version sticks with sauerkraut, mustard and onion sauce.

Monte Cristo

The precise origin of the Monte Cristo is unknown, although most experts believe that it was an Americanized version of the Croque Monsieur. Versions of it appeared under other names in the mid-20th century, and by 1966, it was found on menus in Disneyland with its romantic-sounding name.

Although there are variants today, typically a Monte Cristo will have either turkey, ham or chicken and sliced cheese between two pieces of white bread, dipped in egg and pan fried until golden. It is said that, to be traditional, it should be served with jelly on the side (it takes all kinds).

Patty Melt

The Patty Melt is said to have originated in Southern California in the restaurant chain of William “Tiny” Naylor in the 1940s or 1950s. The traditional recipe has a ground beef patty topped with either American, Swiss or cheddar cheese and grilled onions on rye bread, pan fried in butter.

Po’ Boy

Originating in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Po’ Boy Sandwich can come in a lot of different ways. The Roast Beef Po’ Boy has mayonnaise and shredded lettuce, slow-cooked roast beef and debris gravy on top of a long white roll or baguette. Other versions, such as the Oyster and Shrimp Po’ Boys, have the seafood battered and deep fried, then served atop baguette with a selection of mayonnaise, hot sauce, tomato, lettuce and dill pickle.

The story of its name comes from, weirdly, labor movement lore. In 1929, NOLA streetcar workers went on strike; to help support them, the Martin Brothers offered to feed the strikers. So many took them up on their offer that, as strikers entered their shop, supposedly one brother would say, “here comes another poor boy.”  Another theory is that it actually derives from the French “pourboire”, which is simply money given as gratuity to waiters.

Reuben

Although many attribute the origin of the name of the Reuben Sandwich to Reuben’s Restaurant in New York, experts seem to be persuaded by the claim of Reuben Kulakofsky, now deceased, of Omaha Nebraska. Using old copies of menus and a sprinkling of folklore, they determined that Kulakofsky, a grocer, invented the sandwich in the first half of the 20th century.

Traditionally, a Reuben has a thick pile of corned beef, a slice of Swiss cheese and a pile of sauerkraut on grilled rye bread.

Sloppy Joe

A tangy, sweet, savory and saucy mess on a soft, white bun, the Sloppy Joe has been the favorite of America’s kids for at least a half a century. Like so many others, the exact origin of this sandwich is contested, probably because it more evolved over time than actually suddenly showed up on some menu somewhere. As to the name, there are claims that it originated in the 1920s at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Old Havana, Cuba starting around the 1920s.  Others claim if was from a different Sloppy Joe’s restaurant, this one in Key West, Florida, known to have been frequented by none other than Ernest Hemingway.

Whatever the case, by the 1950s, the Sloppy Joe “loose meat” sandwich were hugely popular, particularly in the Midwest at the time. By adding tomato sauce to the ground beef, onion, salt, pepper and spices of the loose meat sandwich.

S’more

Anyone who’s ever had one of these sticky concoctions knows how it got its name. Comprised of two graham crackers sandwiching a thick piece of chocolate and a melted (hopefully, fire-browned) marshmallow, the S’more was named from people asking for “some more”, which appears to be the original name. This sandwich’s invention is typically credited to the Girl Scouts who included the recipe for “Some Mores” in their 1927 publication Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, which is the first known reference to the treat.

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One Comment »

  1. Jamie June 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    What a delicious list!

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