Presumably most of you know by now that former Mets manager and soon-to-be-named Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine claims to have invented the wrap sandwich. But check it out: Valentine has told at least two different versions of the story that vary slightly.
In a YouTube interview, Valentine says he invented the wrap in 1980 when the toaster at his restaurant was broken and a regular customer ordered a club sandwich for five straight days. In this version of the story, Valentine claims that after five days of trying to make the toaster work, he offered the man a club sandwich wrapped in tortilla, cut into thirds with melted cheese on top. “And from that day on,” he says, “they called it a wrap.”
But in an interview with Ken Hoffman of the Houston Chronicle in 2010, Valentine says he invented the wrap “a few years” after he first opened the restaurant in Stamford in 1980. He again cites the broken toaster, but there’s no mention of the five-day lag for inspiration. And this time, Valentine says, “In the mid-’90s, the Food Network was visiting our restaurant and my manager called the Club Mex a ‘Wrap.’ The name stuck.”
So was it really called a wrap from Day 1, or was that name something that came about years later? These are important semantic details.
I think the people of Boston deserve the real story. Get on it, Dan Shaughnessy.
Also, as for the boldness of the claim: I’m sure Valentine really did think to wrap sandwich stuff in a tortilla out of necessity in a Stamford kitchen on one fateful day, whether it was in 1980 or a few years later.
But I’m equally certain he wasn’t the first to do so. As has been discussed myriad times on this website, the idea of wrapping protein in starch is as nearly as old and as universal as food itself. Just about anyone who has ever claimed to have invented any broad form variety of sandwich has turned out to be incorrect, even John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich himself.
There’s still some chance various more specific sandwiches have not yet been conceived, which is pretty much why we beat on in this waking life. And as with many inventions, it’s sometimes fair to credit those that popularized or perfected certain sandwiches even if they weren’t the first to actually create them.
There’s also this, via our man Takashi: