Special Report

20 Sandwiches (and Fillings) Americans Can’t Stop Eating

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This favorite, best eaten when ripe local tomatoes are in season, probably descended from the club sandwich (see below), which is similar but has another ingredient or two. A recipe for a tomato and bacon sandwich (though it included lettuce) appeared in print as early as 1920. References to it as a “BLT” apparently date from the 1950s. Food historian John Mariani suggests that the acronym was originally a diner slang term for the sandwich.

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Bologna — or “baloney” — is the Americanized version of Italy’s mortadella, a kind of soft, fat-flecked sausage that comes from the Italian city of, yes, Bologna. It’s a popular deli sandwich meat — so popular, in fact, that one of the major producers of the sandwich, Oscar Mayer, once estimated that Americans ate some 2.2 billion of its bologna sandwiches every year. Though it’s often eaten cold, crispy fried bologna is also very popular.

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Breakfast sandwich

The idea of a sandwich eaten for breakfast may have originated among factory workers in 19th-century London. American workers adopted the idea, but it was the fast-food industry that brought it into the mainstream. Jack in the Box introduced an English muffin breakfast sandwich in 1969, but it was with the Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s, first sold in 1972, that the idea really took off. Today, breakfast sandwiches — offered not only by chains but by delis and snack bars all over the country — almost always include eggs, meat (mainly bacon, sausage, or ham), and cheese, and are served on kaiser rolls, English muffins, biscuits, toast, bagels, or almost anything else. There are even breakfast sandwiches in the form of burritos.

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Chicken sandwiches — usually deep-fried breaded or battered boneless chicken breast patties — are hot today. New York-based celebrity chef David Chang of Momofuku got into the game with his Fuku restaurants and sports stadium stands. The ubiquitous Shake Shack chain has its own version. So do virtually all other burger chain, including McDonald’s and Burger King. The category is pretty much owned, however, by Chick-fil-A, the controversial Atlanta-based chain that claims to have invented the sandwich in 1961. Company founder S. Truett Cathy liked to say that his chain held the world record for cooking a chicken breast — four minutes.

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Chicken salad

Chicken salad in the sense of cold shredded or chopped chicken mixed with some kind of sauce or dressing may date back to ancient China. The earliest recipe for something similar to what we think of as chicken salad today may be that from an 1881 cookbook called “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,” in which the author combines the chicken with celery and dresses it in homemade mayonnaise. Exactly when chicken salad first got sandwiched between two pieces of bread isn’t known, but credit is sometimes given to the proprietor of a deli and butcher shop called Town Meats in Wakefield, Rhode Island, who made sandwiches filled with leftover cut-up chicken mixed with mayonnaise, grapes, and tarragon, back in 1963.