Zippy makes a sandwich

… but he’s not sure what to call it:

The idea of taking a long roll of bread (like a French baguette or an Italian ciabatta), slicing it lengthwise, and filling it with an assortment of meats, cheeses, vegetables, condiments, and sauces must have occurred to many people in many places over the years, but in the United States such sandwiches have been associated with Italians since the early 20th century.

The ingredients vary from community to community (the New Orleans version the muffuletta has olive salad as a crucial component, for example). And the names are, for the most part, equally local. The Wikipedia page takes submarine sandwich (or sub) to be the closest thing to a generic term for the family, though it lists many local variants. So do Dave Wilton’s article “A Hoagie by Any Other Name” (Verbatim 28.3, Autumn 2003) and Barry Popik’s blog entry for  “Submarine Sandwich (Sub Sandwich)” (April 5, 2008).

[I first knew these sandwiches as Italian sandwiches (in the Reading PA area in the 40s and 50s) — vulgarly called by their near-rhyming name wop jobs — but then cultural influences from southern New Jersey and Philadelphia gave us hoagies, and from New York City, submarine sandwiches or subs. At Princeton, we consumed grinders, using a name we associated with grinding (studying hard) — there was a Student Grinder Agency that delivered the sandwiches to men studying in their rooms — though that connection is surely historically inaccurate.]

9 Responses to “Zippy makes a sandwich”

  1. Victor Steinbok Says:

    I am certain that the Princeton lore is complete fiction. Grinders are better known in the Northeast, but it is not at all surprising that they would have migrated down to NJ. Wiki claims New England origin, but there is no evidence. Wiki also mentions that “grinders” in Philadelphia are heated, while in the Boston area they are merely distinguished by a toasted bun (the whole thing may or may not be heated). Just as a minor point, there used to be a pizza shop in Central Square in Cambridge that served Philadelphia staples–hoagies and cheesesteaks (also peppersteaks–for my part, I thought they were all awful), just as Princeton has “grinders”. The shop is still there but the ownership has changed–they now serve “steak subs” and “cold subs”.

  2. Ellen K. Says:

    A muffuletta is on round bread, not long bread. A long skinny sandwich is a po’boy in New Orleans. If the prototype is delimeat on bread, then a muffuletta is the New Orleans version, but if the prototype is various fillings on a long bun, a po’boy is.

    • ShadowFox Says:

      Wiki has a long list, citing “Po’boy” for NOLA and “Poor Boy” for St. Louis. I don’t think anyone mentions the Vietnamese version: bánh mì, which is now in the OED.

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