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Slice of History: America's Dainty Sandwich Beginnings

July 6, 2010 4:15 pm · Posted by Nancy Einhart

John Montagu didn't invent the sandwich, but he gets the credit. In American sandwich history, Eliza Leslie is the name to know. Though she wasn't the first American homemaker to make one, her humble ham sandwich holds the title of earliest printed sandwich recipe in U.S. history.

Eaters of America's heartier early handheld meals — such as Cornish pasties, beef on weck, and fried oyster po'boys — would find it absurd that the first printed sandwich recipe in America involves ribbons. As in, ribbons and bows. But like the people making them, the earliest U.S. sandwich recipes are polite American counterparts to their proper British predecessors; Leslie, who published the ribbon-tied sandwich in question, spent her formative years in England.

In her 1836 cookbook, Directions for Cookery, Leslie explains that her ham sandwich is to be served “at supper, or at luncheon.” The recipe calls for a loaf of white or wheat bread, cold boiled ham, and butter. Leslie suggests using French mustard and serving the sandwiches laid flat or rolled up: “For the rolled sandwiches, roll the long sides of a sandwiches to make a long, thin roll, then tie with ribbon.”

Well, I know what I'm doing next Easter!

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