Friday, January 18, 2013

Ready for a Sandwich?

Today is January 18.  On this day in 1778 Captain James Cook became the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands.  He named them the Sandwich Islands.  Perhaps he was in need of some sustenance?

No.  He named the islands for his friend back in England, John Montagu, who was the Fourth Earl of Sandwich.  I suppose he could have called them the Montagu Islands, if he were so inclined, and have done his friend the same sort of favor.

But this same John Montagu was indeed the man for whom the ubiquitous sandwich is named.  One story is that he was busy at work and did not want to take time to have a proper meal with a knife and fork, and so slapped some meat and cheese between several slices of bread, and the fast food meal was born.  And he was a busy guy, Postmaster General, First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for the Northern Department, among other important jobs. 

Then there is the other story that he was so busy at the gambling table that he did not want to stop to dine properly. 

You can pick whichever one you may wish, but the scales may tip in the direction of the gaming table, as one historian has said about the many posts that Sandwich held, that his epitaph should read, "Seldom has any man held so many offices and accomplished so little."

Be that as it may...

The name stuck with the fast food staple, but over time wiser minds prevailed out in the Pacific and we have the Hawaiian Islands today, a much more pleasing name than the Sandwich Islands.

We might say that the Sandwich Islands did not cut the mustard...

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