Diary: How sandwich celebrations were left with a bitter taste

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It saddens me to see that the 250th anniversary of the sandwich has been sullied by a repeat of an old libel against a hard-working public servant. The British Sandwich Association is to blame.

In their promotional literature, accompanying the celebrations in the town of Sandwich, in Kent – including for instance their magazine Get Up And Go, which comprises 16 pages packed with sandwich news and advertisements – they perpetuate that hoary old myth that the sandwich was "created as a bread-and-meat combination for the Earl of Sandwich at his gambling table in 1762".

Hundreds of media outlets across the world, from Canada to India, including the BBC, took their cue from the Association, so the lie has literally gone around the world while the truth has not got its boots on.

It is an undisputed fact that the sandwich is named after John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who served several terms as First Lord of the Admiralty. He sponsored Captain Cook's round-the-world voyage in 1778, which is why Cook gave the name of the Sandwich Islands to what we now call Hawaii.

The story about the sandwich being invented at the gambling table came from a contemporary travelogue, written by a man named M. Grossley, who claimed to have heard of a minister who spent 24 hours at the gambling table "so absorpt in play that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a bit of beef, between two slices of toasted bread".

But the great living authority on Earl Sandwich is Dr Nicholas Rodger, a naval historian, Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, and author of The Insatiable Earl: A Life of John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, in which he warned: "There is no supporting evidence for this piece of gossip, and it does not seem very likely that it has any foundation, especially as it refers to 1765, when Sandwich was a Cabinet minister and very busy.

"There is no doubt, however, that he was the real author of the sandwich, in its original form using salt beef, of which he was very fond. The alternative explanation is that he invented it to sustain himself at his desk, which seems plausible since we have ample evidence of the long hours he worked from an early start, in an age when dinner was the only substantial meal of the day, and the fashionable hour to dine was four o'clock."

Hunt's keeping below the radar

Jeremy Hunt has been remiss about updating his personal website. There is nothing on it more recent than a posting on 29 March, announcing the arrival of a baby daughter, Anna. Could it be that the Culture Secretary, left, has other things on his mind, such as his upcoming appearance before Leveson?

Coren's latest charm offensive

They tell me that Giles Coren, a hereditary columnist on The Times, is not really obnoxious, he only pretends to be. If so, he kept up appearances well over the weekend. Angered that Alice Vincent, an editorial assistant on the Huffington Post website, tweeted that his column was a "yawn", he used twitter to reply: "Go f*** yourself, you barren old hag."

He corrected himself when Vincent replied to say that she is aged 23 by saying: "Well then go f*** yourself you barren young hag. Sorry for the assumption. It was based on your elderly, dessicated tone."

When other members of the Twitter community suggested that his tone was misogynist, Coren's defence was that he is equally abusive to men who criticise him. As if to stress the point, he replied to one tweet with a "Go screw yourself in the eye with a hot stick, you dribbling s***hole!"

Giles Coren is 42.

A costly snipe at the First Mistress

In France, another journalist has paid a heavy price for tweeting injudiciously about Valerie Trierweiler, unmarried partner of President François Hollande. Pierre Salviac, a well-known pundit, has been fired from France's RTL radio station after tweeting: "À toutes mes consoeurs je dis: 'baisez utile, vous avez une chance de vous retrouver première Dame de France;-)'" – which roughly translates as: "Shag wisely sisters and you could be First Lady of France."