I’m going to tell you something you might not be ready to hear: a hot dog is a sandwich.
I know you disagree with me. According to a March Public Policy Poll, 60 percent of Americans do. But sometimes, 60 percent of Americans are wrong. And I hate to say it, but your narrow views of delicatessen delights are hurting this country.
I’ve heard all the arguments, and they all operate on false premises. They all revolve around the definition of sandwich. So, what is a sandwich, anyway?
Well, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.
Normally, those in the not-sandwich camp argue that if it’s meat in a bun, rather than two separate slices of bread, it’s not a sandwich.
First of all, Noah Webster and George Merriam disagree with you. According to their dictionary, a sandwich is “two or more slices of bread or a split roll with a filling in between.” In other words, a hot dog bun.
But, to be totally honest with you, I’m not too concerned about what the dictionary says. Food doesn’t work that way. The food we eat is a product of our culture, and culture is particularly stubborn about classification.
In the 18th century, when John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich requested — as legend has it — a mess-free meal that he could eat while gambling, his servants gave him two slices of toast and a piece of salt beef. I could argue that unless you’re eating two slices of toast and piece of salt beef, you’re not eating a sandwich.
But then something funny happened. Monty’s poker buddies saw what he was eating, and thought he was on to something. The Earl of Club decided to order one with turkey and bacon. The Earl of Reuben ordered one with corned beef. The Earl of Panini was fine with any kind of meat, but wanted his sandwich on ciabatta and squished between two hot irons. He was weird.
I’m joking, but the point is, our modern concept of a “sandwich” was the result of a lot of people adopting and adapting the practices of those that came before them.
Society didn’t come together one day and say “Ok, sandwiches are officially a thing now, and they have to have these specific properties.”. It was a matter of evolution.
At one point, some people (mostly the British and Germans) decided they wanted to start eating sausage sandwiches on a split roll. No one questioned the fact that they were sandwiches, because what else would they be?
In 1901, when Harry M. Stevens decided to market that recipe to American customers, he called them “Daschund sandwiches,” which a cartoonist later dubbed “hot dog sandwiches.”
Hot dogs are as closely related to the original sandwich as is PB&J.
So, a quick word to the National Hot Dog Council, which, last year, declared hot dogs were not sandwiches: It isn’t your choice. Hot dogs are unorthodox sandwiches, sure, but to say those unorthodox aspects preclude them from being sandwiches is a closed-minded view.
That kind of dogmatism isn’t good for sandwiches or hot dogs, and it certainly isn’t good for America.
William T. Perkins is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. How do you feel about hot dogs? Let William know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.