The last earnest man on the internet makes sandwiches.
Barry Enderwick doesn’t look like your archetypal social media star at first glance, and things don’t appear much different upon a second, either. Enderwick more resembles comedian Brian Posehn’s younger brother than an influential microcelebrity, and his algorithmically identical videos belie the stark contrast he provides people’s timelines.
The schtick is simple enough to understand after one viewing. Enderwick films himself making — and then trying — a single sandwich recipe, usually cultivated from a vintage cookbook. He proceeds to give said sandwich a score between 1 and 10 before “plussing it up” with an array of add-ons he has on hand to see if he can improve upon the original recipe.
If it sounds borderline quotidian, it’s because it is. But that’s the magic behind “Sandwiches of History,” which has skyrocketed to nearly 300,000 followers on TikTok and 111,000 and counting on Instagram since launching in 2021.
Enderwick’s unabashed sincerity smacks you in the face with the force of one of the pans he uses to fry such delicacies as Singaporean street food favorite, the Roti john. And the mundane act of making and eating a sandwich is such an unsophisticated idea that it makes the entire concept sui generis.
Fans fall in love with his innocent content because of its anodyne sincerity, not in spite of it.
“It was surprising to get the feedback that this is wholesome, because that’s not something that I was necessarily going for,” he says. “But there’s no guile here.”
The San Jose marketing executive’s Tiktok fame began with a cookbook written in 1909. A friend sent him “The Up-to-Date Sandwich Book” and convinced him it might make for enjoyable content. As things took off, Enderwick realized he wasn’t the only one interested in what an orange peel and chicken sandwich from 1924 might taste like.
“I really do think it comes down to the fact that sandwiches are just universally loved. There’s also a kind of fascination with eating the food that was prepared earlier in time,” he says. “What was considered a good sandwich then? Could it be something that we should be eating today that we’re not?”
“Sandwiches of History” isn’t without its catchphrases. Before each bite, Enderwick lets the audience know he’s about to “give this sandwich a go” in what sounds like a sketch comedy version of a Baltimore accent. When he makes something that looks like it was invented by Beelzebub within the deepest layer of Dante’s Hell, like the raw oyster sandwich, he lets us know he’s “cautiously pessimistic” about it. It’s Enderwick’s real-life version of “plussing up” the broadcast in a way that codifies its charming simpleness and unpretentious allure.
“None of this stuff is planned,” Enderwick says. “It’s just stuff I say … I don’t have any catchphrases that I’ve made up for this. ‘Give it a go’ is just me.”
So why the sandwich?
This staple of diets across the planet may be named after the fourth Earl of Sandwich, but it has origins dating back to the first century, when rabbi Hillel the Elder decided to wrap Paschal lamb inside matzah during Passover.
How did bread with filling slapped in the middle break through?
Enderwick offers a few explanations, including the sandwich’s convenient portability and capacity for cutting across socioeconomic strata. But in the end, he believes it’s the interminable possibilities at play that make both his channel and, in turn, the sandwich itself such a fascinating and fawned-over phenomenon.
“A coq au vin is a coq au vin. You’re not going to modify that by putting a lamb shank in it, because that’s going to be a different dish,” Enderwick says. “But you can make a lamb sandwich. You can make a coq au vin sandwich. You can do a lot of culinary mashups in a sandwich and try different things and cut across different cultures. The sandwich is pretty universal.”
Sincerity undoubtedly helps Enderwick stand out in a world of social media clout-chasers. But perhaps the reason why “Sandwiches of History” became so beloved has to do with his attitude when crafting one of the creations he finds in the back of a faded cookbook written when Louis Armstrong was topping the music charts.
It’s one that mirrors how we can handle reality, with its insanity and inanity congealing into material truth. Even when things look bleak beyond measure, and you’re cautiously pessimistic about the whole thing, who knows?
Maybe it all blends together into something tolerable in the end.
“Comedians have that saying, ‘commit to the bit’, where even if it’s not something you’re into, or it’s not going great, you’ve got to commit to it,” Enderwick says. “That’s kind of the same principle. I could do all sandwiches that I think would be great, and that would be fun. But there’s fun in trying stuff that, on paper, looks bad — because you never know. Maybe it could work out.”