When it comes to eating meat, it doesn’t get more American than a hot dog. The classic frankfurter is an import from Germany, a more processed cousin of the centuries-old sausage.
A typical hot dog is made with ground meat trimmings wrapped in an intestinal casing, which can either be removed after cooking or left on for some added crunch. Throw in a bun and some mustard and you’ve got yourself a true American icon.
Recently, it has come to my attention that there are some scallywags who believe the hot dog is in fact a kind of sandwich. Debates surrounding the sandwichiness of hot dogs can get quite heated, but hopefully sharing my side of the issue will help to settle the dust.
What is a sandwich?
The key to understanding this debate is knowing how to define a sandwich. The sandwich was invented in Britain in the 1700s and has spread worldwide through the centuries. This widespread culinary propagation means there are many varieties of sandwiches, thus making a single definition is almost impossible.
However, Dictionary.com gave it their best shot. They define a sandwich as “two or more slices of bread or the like with a layer of meat, fish, cheese, etc., between each pair.”
The “hot dog is a sandwich” debate comes from a technicality: where do you draw the line on how much the bread covers the filling?
Some believe the hot dog is not a sandwich because a sandwich requires two separate pieces of bread, but critics argue that this would also disqualify a Subway footlong from being a sandwich, and with that logic, a hot dog is in fact a sandwich.
More radical thinkers even argue that calzones, tacos, jelly donuts and Pop Tarts are all sandwiches. These rapscallions believe a sandwich is solely defined as bread with filling inside.
While I respect the worldview of these people, here are the reasons I believe a hot dog is not a sandwich.
Ingredients and eating
The first reason a hot dog is not a sandwich is because of the way it’s prepared and eaten.
Even among the many variations of a typical sandwich, the ingredients are almost always sliced or flattened, and the sandwich is eaten with a clearly defined top and bottom slice of bread. Hamburgers, French dips and PB&Js all conform to this standard, along with many other sandwiches.
Hot dogs, by contrast, are different on both counts. The meat is pressed into a long cylindrical shape, and the hot dog is typically eaten facing up from the bun, with no top or bottom piece of bread.
Additionally, the condiments on a hot dog are usually not contained within the bread — they’re spread on top of the meat itself, and they’re prone to sliding around a fair bit.
By far, the biggest flaw in the “hot dog is a sandwich” perspective is that it distills and broadens the definition of a sandwich until it’s no longer a useful description of food. If a hot dog really is a sandwich, then why can’t I order a hot dog from Jimmy John’s, or a jelly donut from Goodcents?
This kind of confusion would be needless. The definition of a sandwich needs to be a little strict, because otherwise it becomes a meaningless word.
Additionally, I disagree with the notion that every “bread with filling” dish should be a sandwich because it robs people of their cultural heritage.
Sandwiches were invented in Britain, but hot dogs were invented by working-class Germans, and tacos were invented by the indigenous people of Mexico. The Brits have had enough colonialism for one millennium — let these people enjoy their accomplishments without having to stuff their cuisine into a British descriptive label.
Regardless of what you think about hot dogs and their relation to sandwiches, hopefully we can all agree that Pop Tarts are not sandwiches. Seriously, that’s just dumb.
Kyle Hampel is a junior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]