Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?

Hey, Karl, here's a deep philosophical question for you: is a hot dog a sandwich?

"What? What the hell kind of question is that?" Karl turned and faced me. "That may be one of the dumbest things you've ever asked me."

Oh yeah? Then answer the question.

We were sitting in Victory Field on a Thursday evening, watching a minor league baseball game. The Indianapolis Indians were taking on the Louisville Bats, and I had just returned to our seats with our obligatory hot dogs and ballpark beer.

"Of course it's not," he said, taking his hot dog. "I mean, look at it. Does this even look like a sandwich?"

What is it then?

"It's. . . well, it's just a hot dog! It's a thing unto itself."

Like a hamburger, I said.

"Exactly. Like a hamburger."

A hamburger's a sandwich though.

"A hamburger's a hamburger. It's not a hamburger sandwich."

The hamburger was created either by a guy in Connecticut or a guy in Wisconsin who stuck a Hamburg steak between two pieces of bread. And they called it a Hamburger sandwich.

"So how is it a sandwich?"

A sandwich is any combination of meat, cheese, and vegetables — or peanut butter and jelly, if you prefer — between two pieces of bread, right? And a hamburger is meat and veggies between two pieces of bread in bun form.

"So, it's not a sandwich, because it's eaten on a bun. And a bun isn't regular bread."

It is bread though. It's made from flour, water, and yeast. So it's bread.

"Well, it's a bread product. But it's not sliced sandwich bread."

I had to slice the bun to open it.

"That's true, I guess."

If I slice a hot dog lengthwise and put it between two slices of bread, is it a sandwich?

"I guess you could call that a hot dog sandwich."

And what if I don't slice it, and just fold it between a single slice of bread?

"That's not a sandwich. The sandwich needs two pieces of bread."

So just cut the one slice in half.

"Okay, whatever. I don't like this discussion, Kid. It's kind of weird."

Look, you were the one who lectured me — lectured me! — for two hours on the Back to the Future timeline and how Marty McFly was actually part of his parents' original lives in the 1950s the first time around.

"So? It's an important philosophical point, and one that I think Robert Zemeckis missed."

I missed the game that night!

"And so you're punishing me with this stupid question?"

Pretty much.

"Fine. Where were we?"

If a hot dog can be a sandwich when it's inside a piece of bread, why can't a bun be a piece of bread?

"A hot dog bun is a long roll with a split in the middle," said Karl, showing me his hot dog bun. "It's not meant to be sliced, so that makes it different."

But what if you cut the hot dog bun all the way through? Does that make it a sandwich?
"Not necessarily," he said, mouth full of hot dog. "It depends how you hold it. See? The split and the hot dog are pointed up, like a taco."

Would you agree that a sub sandwich is actually a sandwich?

"You mean a hoagie? Yes, that's a sandwich."

Even though the hoagie roll isn't cut all the way through?

Karl thought for a minute, while we watched the Indians turn a double play to end the inning.

"Sure, that's the exception."

But what if I rotate the hoagie 90 degrees so the slice is facing up. Is it still a sandwich?


So if I rotate the hot dog 90 degrees so the slice is horizontal, does it become a sandwich? Is a sandwich only a sandwich because of the way I hold it?

Karl coughed. "Uhh. . . yes?"

What, are you choking?

"No, I'm fine."

No, I meant on my logic.

"Oh, bite me, Kid! You haven't won anything."

Let's recap. A sandwich is a sandwich because it's meat inside some bread, whether it's two slices or one folded one. The bread can be in any form, whether it's sliced, a bun, or a roll. And it doesn't matter which direction you turn the sandwich, because it doesn't matter whether the slice runs horizontally or vertically.


So a hot dog fits that description. It's meat and toppings. I put them inside some bread, regardless of the kind I use. And I can hold it so the slice is horizontal or vertical. Ergo, no matter which way you slice it, turn it, or hold it, a hot dog is a sandwich.

"Fine, dammit! Fine! A hot dog is a sandwich! You win. Are you happy now?"

Deliriously. Hey, it's your turn for a food run. Get me a burger.

"Are you going to put mayonnaise on it?"

Of course.

"Gross, Kid! I don't even want to know you!"

Photo credit: Arnold Inuyaki (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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