By: Adam Zahler  | 

Is a Hotdog a Sandwich and Why That Matters for Us All

The question at hand is one that lies at the base of our collective subconscious. In a world that seems lost in the ever-thickening and darkening sauce, a little clarity can go further than an ill-advised SNL skit. In our never-ending pursuit of truth, I would like to propose the following thought-piercing question: Is a hotdog a sandwich? Before we proceed with our analysis, I would like to clarify that we will not be dealing with the ethics behind the consumption of hotdogs, nor whether they as food items should limit a restaurant to receiving no more than a “B” from the health inspectors. We will not even deal with the question, which has stumped philosophers everywhere, as to whether a hotdog is indeed an instrument (to all my SpongeBob people — if you know you know). Our analysis will be limited to that which Plato may have considered the theoretical “perfect hotdog,” which obviously contains mustard, sauerkraut and relish. 

We must first begin by defining what exactly constitutes a sandwich. Before we do so, I must warn you that no matter our conclusion, the way in which the conclusion affects our categorization of other bread and filling combinations will be jarring. This exercise is not for the faint of heart.

In my calculation, there would appear to be three major factors in the categorization of a sandwich: (a) the contents of the sandwich, (b) the bread that holds everything together and (c) the confluence of the two factors.

Let us first define how the contents of “The Sandwich” influence its status as such. If a sandwich is referred to by the name of that which lies inside, then it is not a sandwich. Therefore, a hotdog would not have the status of a sandwich, and neither would a hamburger, as the name of the sandwich merely refers to the substance inside the bread. The logic is that the bread must be an integral part of a sandwich’s creation, and a failure to cause a change in name upon application represents a lack of essentiality within the bread. This raises the issue of the bun’s role if the name remains the same. One could say that it is just like ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut or any other topping; it does not have its own unique status, but rather it becomes completely subservient to the dog it holds.

I think that there are three important counterpoints that must be made. The first is that this would establish a sub as a sandwich, and for some reason that makes me uncomfortable. The second is that if the integrality of the bread determines a hotdog's status as a sandwich, an argument can be made that bread’s status as indispensable should not be solely dependent on whether or not it undergoes a name change when used. One could claim that regardless of a name change, or lack thereof, a hotdog with a bun is a completely different item, as the bun provides a platform upon which the toppings could lie. Without it, every bite would be limited to one sauce, in addition to the hotdog. The blend of many flavors found in a hotdog bite would be rendered obsolete without the bun. The third is that even without the question of essentiality, an item’s name might serve as a good indicator as to how to categorize it, but it is not conclusive proof, as there are exceptions. We come across many cases in which a concept is referred to by a certain name, and that name could mean something totally different from what one might have thought (i.e. a driveway is for parking while a parkway is for driving, or see Pri Megadim: Pticha Kolelet: Orech Chaim: Cheilek 5 on the word “Chazaka).

The second thing we will be dealing with is the bread. Our argument will be limited to the structure of the bread. We will be ignoring the question of the bread’s makeup, as that will open up a whole Pandora’s box of questions (i.e. gluten-free, pat haba bikisnin, etc.). Within this approach, one can make two separate claims as to why a hotdog is not a sandwich. The first is that a hotdog is served in a bun, and the structure of the bread serves as the complete determiner of its sandwich status, with a bun not having the structural integrity to meet proper sandwich standards. According to this, peanut butter and jelly in a hotdog bun would not constitute a sandwich, whereas a hotdog between two pieces of bread would in fact be considered a sandwich. The fundamental difference between a bun and two pieces of bread could be that a hotdog bun is too cylindrical to be considered a sandwich, whereas sandwich bread is flat and wide. It is important to note that this has nothing to do with the connection between the two sides of the bun. Rather, it is the thickness of the bun, in addition to its length-to-width ratio, which gives it the status of a bun and not the bread status that a sandwich requires. According to this, a hamburger would in fact be categorized as a sandwich.

What is the litmus test for determining the proper ratios? The central question that must be asked is, if a bun was a boat, would you feel comfortable with the structural integrity of the boat? If it has a raft-like structure, then you would be more than comfortable getting inside it. You would be unconcerned that it might flip over. However, if it is shaped like a hotdog bun, then it would be similar to logrolling, where one would keep spinning until they fell off the log.

The second argument is that a sandwich is required to be composed of two distinct pieces of bread. This would help us solve several problems, such as why a taco or a folded pizza would not take on the status of a sandwich. However, within this argument, it is important to answer the question of “what if you separate between the two sides of the bun?” as well as “what if you use two different pieces of bread to surround the hotdog?” Of course, these questions bring up the grand question as to whether a hotdog should have one unalterable definition of either “sandwich” or “hotdog,” or a more situational definition, constantly changing depending on its surroundings. These, my dear friends, are questions for another day.

Having now emerged unscathed and triumphant from the belly of the beast that is the hotdog, I would like to do something possibly unprecedented, probably rare and most definitely ill-advised. I would like to conclude with the entire point of today’s exercise, thereby aiding us in understanding the magnitude of our quest. It is quite rare that a point can be made in its very own deliverance, and I wanted to tread the path emblazoned by the Newsies and “open the gates and seize the day.” What we did today was more than just discuss the viability of a hotdog as a sandwich, although that is a secondary objective that retains its standing as being of utmost importance. This piece itself was a journey, in which I attempted to present an argument for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, while also providing some of the analytical tools for the mining of your own intellectual fancies. Every investigation begins with the humbling recognition of a lack of knowledge in a certain area, which is then followed by a purposeful growth-oriented journey toward truth. 

The definition of a hotdog should not affect us in any way practically (unless you went on a no-sandwich diet, but then I would recommend that you stay off hotdogs anyways). Yet, throughout the analysis, we find ourselves highly invested in this ever-raging debate. Why is that? Albert Einstein once declared that “the pursuit of knowledge is more valuable than its possession.” Life is busy and at times even overwhelming. Merely “getting by” can already be hard enough, but occasionally, instead of that extra swipe on whatever “not TikTok” version of TikTok we are using, I think it would behoove us to take a couple of minutes traversing the never-ending leafy knolls of knowledge. We can travel to places from which we can ultimately emerge with something new and exciting, whose presence alone reminds us of a jungle awaiting our return, ensuring that our curiosity-driven expedition is more than worth it.

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Photo Caption: Hotdogs

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