'twas the twenty-second night before Christmas.
December 3rd is the third day of the made-up characters calendar and being St Sandwiches’ Day, the day that the Twelve Foot Long Hero Sandwich of Burton Country, Vermont, was officially credited with the miracle of feeding the fifty, we shall now tell the story of Jennifer Warwick, the lady of the greatest sandwich of them all.
In the winter of 1865 and after a brutal period of four years which saw the Union pitted against the breakaway Confederacy in the Civil War, the United States needed to come together to heal its wounds. As a result of there being many furnaces and foundries built for the product of weapons and equipment, there was now an excess of these things and they needed to be converted to civilian use of else be a waste. The problem is that there are only so many things that you can put a giant fire box to use as: foundry, kiln, crematorium and of course the best of all, a regular old oven.
Jennifer Warwick had seen her husband go off to fight for the Union four years before and just as she thought that she was going to have her husband return home to her, the government posted her a small medal and a certificate in lieu of him, as he had stood on a tent peg and died of tetanus. Consequently, as he had been a blacksmith and founder, she found herself in possession of the fire box but without the necessary skills to do her husband's former job; undaunted, she turned her hand to the one thing that she was renowned for: baking.
Warwick & Co. went from turning out a few loaves per day for pennies, to many hundreds of loaves per week which brought in hundreds of dollars. Word spread throughout the state of Vermont and soon she was turning out bread for people as distinguished as the Governor.
Christmas of 1865 was particularly unkind as the mercury plunged well below freezing and many ex-servicemen now had to take their next battle, surviving the winter; this was well before the arrival of the welfare state. As an act of charity for families who were in similar circumstances to her own, Jennifer Warwick announced that she would bake the longest loaf of bread that the firebox would allow, and pieces would be given away to these families. Word reached the local newspaper, The Burton Register, and a campaign was soon established among the local farmers to bring a selection of meats, cheeses and vegetables together, so that the families might have more than just bread at Christmas.
On Christmas Day, when the twelve foot long loaf of bread was taken out of the firebox and laid on a specially constructed trellis table, it was cut down the side and work began on filling it with the great provision which had been brought forth. It was unlike any other sandwich ever made; for it was filled with things that do not normally go together, including: ham, lamb, various salamis, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, chicken, turkey, avocados, mustard, mayonnaise, artichoke, beans, and five kinds of cheese from the county.
There was great joy when as the sandwich was cut into two inch divisions, fifty four people of whom the war had taken a great toll, all shared in its bounty. Some of them had been made lame, others had lost limbs; others were still traumatised from the war and were thankful that a great kindness had been shown to them. The Mayor of Burton County, Clyde Auburn, declared that:
- The Burton Register, 26th Dec 1865.
More than 150 years later, the hero sandwich has escaped beyond the confines of the holiday season and has become something to be enjoyed all the year round. History may have passed over Jennifer Warwick but greatest sandwich, both in size and fame, lives on. Perhaps we should revive the original meaning and invite those less fortunate to come and share the Christmas Hero Sandwich once again.