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A sandwich is a food typically consisting of vegetables, sliced cheese or meat, placed on or between slices of bread, or more generally any dish wherein two or more pieces of bread serve as a container or wrapper for another food type. The sandwich began as a portable finger food in the Western world, though over time it has become prevalent worldwide.
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Sandwiches are a popular type of lunch food, taken to work, school, or picnics to be eaten as part of a packed lunch. The bread can be either plain, or coated with condiments such as mayonnaise or mustard, to enhance its flavour and texture. As well as being homemade, sandwiches are also widely sold in restaurants and can be served hot or cold. There are both savoury sandwiches, such as deli meat sandwiches, and sweet sandwiches, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The sandwich is considered to have been named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, the inventor, it is claimed, of this food combination. The Wall Street Journal has described it as Britain's "biggest contribution to gastronomy".
n the United States, a court in Boston, Massachusetts ruled in 2006 that a sandwich includes at least two slices of bread. and "under this definition, this court finds that the term 'sandwich' is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans." The issue stemmed from the question of whether a restaurant that sold burritos could move into a shopping centre where another restaurant had a no-compete clause in its lease prohibiting other "sandwich" shops.
In Spain, where the word sandwich is borrowed from the English language, it refers to a food item made with English sandwich bread. It is otherwise known as a bocadillo. Similar usage applies in other Spanish-speaking cultures, such as Mexico, where the word torta is also used for a popular variety of roll-type sandwiches.
In the United Kingdom and Australia, the term sandwich is more narrowly defined than in the US: it refers only to an item which uses sliced bread from a loaf. An item with similar fillings, but using an entire bread roll cut horizontally in half, is always referred to as a roll. (In South Australia, there is a regional variant of the roll, superficially similar to a club sandwich, where the bread roll is sliced three times with parallel cuts, and filling is put in the first and third openings, but not the second. This makes the resulting double cut roll easier to handle: the top half and the bottom half are eaten separately.) Any hot item based on a bread roll is referred to as a burger, never as a sandwich. However, hot sliced (not ground) beef between two slices of toasted bread is referred to as a steak sandwich: it is the sliced loaf bread that distinguishes the steak sandwich from a burger.
The verb to sandwich has the meaning "to position anything between two other things of a different character, or to place different elements alternately," and the noun sandwich has related meanings derived from this more general definition. For example, an ice cream sandwich consists of a layer of ice cream between two layers of cake or biscuit. Similarly, Oreos and Custard Creams are described as sandwich biscuits (UK/Commonwealth) or sandwich cookies (US) because they consist of a soft filling between the baked layers.
The word butty (a reference to the fact that butter is often used in British sandwiches) is common in some northern parts of England as a slang synonym for "sandwich", particularly to refer to certain kinds of sandwiches including the chip butty, bacon butty, or sausage butty, though some people make the distinction that a butty is made using a single buttered slice, folded over rather than cut. "Sarnie" is a similar colloquialism. Likewise, the word sangeris used for sandwich in Scottish dialect. The colloquial Scottish word piece may refer either to a sandwich or to a light meal, especially one that includes a sandwich. For example, the phrase jeely piece refers to a jam sandwich.