The sandwich is the original modern fast food. It got its name from John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, who happened to be a very keen gambler. So keen in fact that he could not bring himself to leave his game to eat. As concurs, he instead ordered his staff to bring him his lunch between two thick slices of bread, so that he could eat it more easily while still continuing his game.

The site goes on to say that he was not the inventor of the sandwich as, on his travels in the Eastern Mediterranean, he had seen filled pita breads being served at meals, and so must have got the idea there.

The convenience of the sandwich can’t be denied, and hence it has remained a firm favourite for casual diners. In this age where we have refined the notion of convenience, the sandwich remains the go-to meal option when we are either too in a hurry to make something more demanding of our culinary skills, too uninspired by other ingredients at hand, or when the cupboard is too bare to offer any alternatives.

There are many kinds, with only our imaginations limiting its endless variations. In South Africa we have the great Gatsby – a sandwich of such vast proportions, that it takes several people to eat it. And it seems able to hold any number of ingredients – from the dutiful sprinkle of diced salad leaves to provide additional nutrition and crunch, to the essential filler of hot chips liberally sprinkled with salt and vinegar. Add some Vienna sausages for your protein and it is a very acceptable occasional meal for a family – and very enthusiastically appreciated by the younger members.

Still in South Africa there is the bunny chow, a chunk of bread that is hollowed out and then filled with curry for a deliciously spicy meal-on-the-go. And of course we cannot forget amaqwinya, a staple in our townships, that warm and doughy, sweet or savoury, daily fills many a tummy on its way to school or work.

Other countries have their own version – what is a pizza if not a flat, round, open sandwich? And in America there is the Dagwood – after the cartoon character who created towering constructions of bread with all manner of fillings, which he masterfully kept from toppling over with gooey spreads plastered on for stability. And of course we cannot not mention the burger – arguably the world’s most famous and best loved sandwich offspring of them all

Healthy eaters need not shun sandwiches. Replace white bread with brown or wheat with rye and you can still have an acceptably nutrient-dense meal, layered with salad ingredients and a protein.


If you enjoyed this article, you may also like Amber’s ode to home-cooked feasts here.

Tell us: What is your favourite sandwich topping or convenience food?