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The History of the Sandwich


The History of the Sandwich

When you’re hungry, sometimes a sandwich can be exactly what you need. From the heartiness of the bread, to the protein and delicious toppings in-between, it’s no wonder why sandwiches are one of the most popular lunch choices today.

It’s hard to imagine a life without sandwiches, but their popularity wasn’t always so present. According to history, the sandwich we know and love today was created in 1762 in England. Most food historians agree that the sandwich is the product of John Montagu, “the 4th Earl of sandwich.” Montagu was known for being a problematic gambler, spending hours upon hours at the card table. During one of his long days of playing, he worked up an appetite and requested something from the kitchen that he could eat with his hands, without needing to get out of his seat. He was brought a sandwich—two pieces of bread filled with meat in the middle.

From that day forward, the sandwich began making its way throughout England. By the Revolutionary War, it was a well-established dish.

It took a substantial amount of time for the sandwich to make it to America. It could be because Americans were slow to give into trends happening across the pond.  The first sandwich was finally featured in an American cookbook in 1815. It wasn’t the type of sandwich we typically eat today, but was actually a tongue sandwich.  

Americans really started to step up their sandwich game during the Great Depression, when sandwiches like the iconic Po’Boy were created in New Orleans. Two streetcar workers came up with the idea during a streetcar strike. They promised to feed other streetcar workers who were on strike and out of money, for free. Other early sandwiches that began to appear across the country around this time included: the Sloppy Joe (named after a line cook named Joe), and the Reuben.

In Pennsylvania, our own beloved sandwich also came about during the Great Depression era—the hoagie. The story out of South Philadelphia is that they were a lunch staple for Italian-American workers in an old shipyard located in Hog Island. Originally, the sandwiches were referred to as “hoggies,” but the pronunciation eventually shifted. Antoninette Iannelli claims to have popularized the sandwich around 50 years ago, when she started her fruit stand in South Philly featuring a meat case. A Police Officer came in claiming that his wife didn’t pack his lunch one day. So Iannelli cut a loaf of Italian bread in half and filled it with meats, olives, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce. Before she knew it, he was back and requesting more sandwiches for his colleagues. Within a week, police cars lined the street to get their own hoagies.

Today, the hoagie is popular across the entire keystone state. Hoagies have also become a staple in any local pizza shop. At Cellone’s, we produce up to 60,000 to 70,000 hoagie buns per day. We deliver them to many pizza shops including Fox’s Pizza, Pizza Palmero, and Jet’s Pizza, just to name a few. About 10,000 to 13,000 cases of hoagie buns are delivered locally each day, while the rest are shipped all over the country. We’d love to know—what’s on your hoagie?

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