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The History of the BLT Sandwich

There is a fair amount of mystery and debate over the origins of the famous BLT sandwich, which stands for “bacon, lettuce, and tomato.” A number of sources theorize that it originated as an English tea sandwich during the Victorian era and eventually made its way over to the United States. Michele Anna Jordan, author of The BLT Cookbook, believes the sandwich arose as a variation on the club sandwich, which became popular in upperclass gentlemen’s clubs and U.S. railway dining cars shortly before the turn of the century. There is also a theory that the BLT arose as an adaptation of a sandwich that was served at New York's Delmonico Restaurant during the Jazz Age. Despite these murky origins, we do know that American publications like Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping began publishing references to the sandwich in 1903. Some food historians point to a recipe authored by Dr. Evan Mee as an early version of a BLT; it featured bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and a slice of turkey. The fledgling BLT sandwich gained popularity quickly, particularly in the postwar era. It’s thought that the moniker “BLT” arose in the 1940s when diners began popping up in greater numbers and servers needed a way to easily refer to the sandwich. In 1951, the Saturday Evening Post referred to a toasted sandwich of bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. As supermarkets became more prevalent in postwar America, the ingredients for the BLT became more readily available, boosting its popularity even further. At one time, it was considered the most popular sandwich in America, and despite its potentially British origins, the BLT still remains emblematic of American cuisine today. In fact, many American fast-food giants have created their own versions of the famous sandwich over the years and it continues to be a mainstay on many restaurant menus as well as in many American homes today.

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