Comparison With Sandwiches
A butterbrot is commonly a single slice of bread and one "ingredient" on top of the butter or margarine. For breakfast, this ingredient tends to be sweet and can be marmalade, jam, honey, chocolate spread, hazelnut spread, peanut butter, sprinkles, vlokken, or muisjes. For dinner (German-speaking countries traditionally eat only one cooked meal per day) or as boxed lunch, and often also for breakfast, the butterbrot is eaten with something savory, usually a single slice of cold meat or cheese, or sometimes spreads etc. Boxed lunch butterbrot can be folded for easier handling and as such resembles the sandwich. In Austria butterbrot only refers to a slice of bread with butter. If a topping is added it is named after the topping (e.g. käsebrot "cheese bread", wurstbrot "sausage bread").
The derivatives of the British sandwich and the butterbrot of the German-speaking countries differ in some ways: The butterbrot is usually made from the typical bread types of German-speaking countries, which are much firmer than English bread. One popular type is Graubrot (grey bread), which has a sour taste, due to the use of sourdough as a leavening agent, and contains rye. As Graubrot requires the culture of rye, which implies sourdough, and widespread dairy farming, most south-/western-European countries came to prefer other kinds of (mainly white) breads (baguette, ciabatta, toast etc.). Graubrot exists in dozens of varieties with respect to taste, shape, color, etc. Another popular bread type is Schwarzbrot (black bread), which is even firmer and of darker color; again many different varieties exist.
Possibly even more important are differences with respect to what is eaten on top of a butterbrot or in a sandwich. Although exceptions exist, a butterbrot is commonly not expanded the way sandwiches are. One slice of cheese and one or (in case of thin slices) maybe two slices of cold meat are commonly considered sufficient; adding lettuce or even onions, ketchup etc. is virtually unheard of. Also the ratio of bread and "topping" is relatively constant; thick sandwich fillings have almost no equivalent for the butterbrot. If more than one topping is added then it is called belegtes Brot/Brötchen ("topped bread"). These are common at buffet tables.
German speakers differentiate between the German-style butterbrot and the British-style sandwich by using the English word "sandwich" for the latter. As the English language does not contain both words, English speakers commonly describe both butterbrot and sandwich with the word sandwich.
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