Thought provoking culinary question about famous food spurs controversy: Are hot dogs sandwiches?

“Is a hot dog a sandwich?”

When I first heard the question this past summer, the idea could not have sounded more preposterous. I mean, a hot dog isn’t a sandwich! It just … isn’t!

But then I began to think about it. Why isn’t it a sandwich? It’s surrounded by bread, is it not? I came to the conclusion that, yes, a hot dog is definitely a sandwich.

A Twitter poll conducted by sports columnist Phil Hecken had 82 percent of the 4,925 respondents say that a hot dog is not a sandwich. I conducted a similar poll this week, which saw 175 respondents. Initially, 68 percent of them said a hot dog is not a sandwich.

I then provided the Merriam-Webster definition for a sandwich, and asked the same question. After reading the definition, 45.7 percent of respondents said a hot dog was a sandwich. Those who still said a hot dog was not a sandwich had some interesting reasoning, from “It doesn’t … feel like a sandwich,” to “You can’t buy one at a deli shop.” One such respondent was senior and European sandwich aficionado Henry Gaff.

“The Oxford English Dictionary defines a sandwich as ‘an item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them, eaten as a light meal.’ Wikipedia goes on to define a sandwich as ‘any dish wherein two or more pieces of bread serve as a container or wrapper for another food type.’ The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition cited in the survey issued to the school, ‘two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between,’ is at best ambiguous in how it may be applied to hot dogs, and regardless of the authority of the source, it does not hold up on its own to the multiple definitions from a variety of sources that state that sandwiches by necessity must include two pieces of bread to be considered a sandwich.”

In addition to citing various definitions apart from the Merriam-Webster, he goes on to cite court cases.

“Furthermore, the Superior Court of Massachusetts has ruled that neither tacos nor quesadillas count as sandwiches in a 2006 decision regarding contract law. It would then seem to hold that, like a taco, a hot dog consisting of a bread-type product wrapping a protein or other filling would similarly not be a sandwich. However, the strongest case against the hot dog being a sandwich is the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book issued by the US Department of Agriculture. According to an NPR interview with a representative of the USDA, and reaffirming the decision of the Massachusetts Superior Court, these standards exclude ‘items like burritos, wraps or hot dogs’ from the definition of a sandwich,” he said. “As such, not only is a hot dog not a sandwich, to disagree is to defy the American system of democracy. Both the executive and judicial branches of government agree that hot dogs are not sandwiches, and this is only reinforced by the majority of dictionary and encyclopedia definitions of the food item. Therefore, it can be stated with a sense of finality and belief in these United States that hot dogs are not, in fact, sandwiches.”

Senior and patriot Max Dupree disagreed. “The Merriam-Webster dictionary, the most trusted dictionary in America, defines a sandwich as ‘two or more slices of bread or a split roll having filling in between,’ or as ‘one slice of bread covered with food.’ A hot dog can fit all three of these definitions depending on what you consider the bread around the hot dog itself to be. In the first case, the hot dog bun is considered to be two pieces of bread, which can occur if you are not careful enough with your hot dog before you eat it. The hot dog then consists of two pieces of bread surrounding the sausage, making it fit the definition of a sandwich. The second case for a hot dog is when the hot dog bun is considered one piece of bread. The hot dog can be considered as covering the hot dog bun, although not completely, and therefore it can be considered a sandwich,” he said. “The third case for a hot dog is when the hot dog bun is considered a split roll. Now this is the situation that people may have the hardest time believing, as the modern hot dog bun does not resemble what most people would consider a roll. But if we take a look at the history of the hot dog, we find that they most likely originated in Germany. Back then, in the 1400s, the dachshund sausage, what we now know as the hot dog, was eaten on a roll that was split down the middle. The modern hot dog bun is simply an evolution of that, made to fit the hot dog better to make eating a hot dog easier. Knowing now that the hot dog bun is in fact a split roll, we can conclude that hot dogs are in fact sandwiches.”

There are many arguments for both sides of the issue, and though I once was firmly on the not a sandwich side and once firmly on the sandwich side, I’ve come to realize there’s not one right answer. A hot dog can be seen as a sandwich if you want to see it as a sandwich, or it can be seen as definitely not.

Whatever the answer is, let us not be separated by what divides us. Let us all, the sandwichers and the anti-sandwichers, join together on a large cookout and eat our hot dogs, whether or not they are sandwiches, in harmony.

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