I think things. Then I write about them. It's the narcissism, you see.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Musings: A Hotdog is a Hotdog

There are times when people’s beliefs and opinions truly flabbergast me—times when I find myself staring, mouth practically agape, as I listen to an opinion so devoid of reason that I can label it as utter nonsense purely on reflex. I find myself most often in this predicament when debating what has become the great philosophical argument of our time—but which does not deserve to be an argument at all: whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich.

A sandwich? Only if it's open-faced.

More often than not hot-dogs-as-sandwiches supporters—whom I will call sandwichers going forward—construct their argument to purposely avoid a key issue: the hinged nature of the hot dog bun. They do this, typically, through appeals to comparison—if X is a sandwich, then by virtue of certain commonalities, Y must also be a sandwich. Embracing this argument with a passion I’ve seen nowhere else is this article written by Jeb Lund and published in The Guardian.

Mr. Lund begins by labeling a sandwich as “a portable, relatively tidy meal of meat inside a bread conveyance” and thus eliminating the need to argue over the hinged nature of the hot dog bun. Using that definition, he expands sandwiches to include tacos, wraps, and calzones. He excludes pizza without explanation, apparently not caring that a person can order a slice of pizza individually and, by folding it in half, have a portable meal of meat inside bread. There is also, curiously, no mention of the hamburger—though perhaps a hamburger is not tidy enough. Mr. Lund’s basis for including tacos, burritos, and wraps is that a tortilla is essentially bread (whether hard or soft) because it begins in much the same way as traditional bread: dough. This is also his basis for including calzones.

If a hot dog bun can be a single piece of bread folded in half, why can't pizza be a sandwich?

Mr. Lund conveniently ends his article without exploring the natural conclusion that his own pro-calzone argument must lead to: that a corn dog is a sandwich. Like the calzone, the corn dog is completely enclosed by “bread.” Unlike every other food item he lists, the corn dog is a single item inside bread; there are no other ingredients or condiments. In fact, if you do not want a plain corn dog, the condiments—ingredients, if you will—go on the outside of the “sandwich,” rendering it unique among the items he’s listed and begging the question as to the nature of an enchilada and tamale. But let’s leave the discussion of exterior condiments alone and take only the plain corn dog which definitely meets Mr. Lund’s criteria; through the corn dog we begin to see the flaws in Mr. Lund’s argument—the flaws in most sandwichers’ arguments. The corn dog, though, is not the end of this absurd rabbit hole.

Sandwiches on sticks.

If it has not yet occurred to you, I must point out that the definition of a sandwich embraced by Mr. Lund as the basis for his argument relegates our vegan and vegetarian friends to lives of sandwich absence since their portable, relatively tidy meals inside bread will not have meat. But since Mr. Lund’s article is itself a kind of plea for inclusion, I am sure he won’t mind if we eliminate the meat requirement. So our new definition would be: a portable, relatively tidy meal inside a bread conveyance.

But even this new, egalitarian definition of a sandwich leaves us with a vague, undefined term: meal. What constitutes a meal? The number of calories I might need to intake in any given meal likely differs from yours; additionally, the size of any particular meal I might have differs from many others. There are some people who would consider a single hot dog a meal while others—myself included—would require multiple hot dogs to approach a full meal. So we’re forced to understand a sandwich as being a general term for a tidy, portable food item of single or multiple ingredients enclosed or carried by a dough-based bread item. A little unwieldy, sure, but at least it’s more accurate.

Therefore, following Mr. Lund’s logic for calling a calzone a sandwich, broadened as it must be to the single-ingredient corn dog, and finally enlightened by his own sense of inclusivity so as not to require meat, I give you the absurd but natural end of the sandwichers’ argument: the Twinkie as a sandwich.

I'm having this sandwich for lunch.

Certainly I would love to label a Twinkie a sandwich and base my workplace lunches upon it. It is, after all, a tidy and portable bread-enclosed food item which seems to be Mr. Lund’s sole requirement. But I imagine even most sandwichers would agree this to be folly—a stretching of all sensible food boundaries. Such is the danger of the kind of arbitrary argument by association sandwichers embark upon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Mr. Lund’s entire article, great argument for inclusivity that it is, ignores a central problem sandwichers are often unable to overcome: a hot dog is a hot dog whether or not it’s in a bun, and—unlike most sandwich ingredients—need not be bread-enclosed in order to be portable. A hot dog’s special nature—and it’s almost iconic place in culture—deserves better than to be lumped in with the broader category of sandwiches. Calling a hot dog a sandwich isn’t simply inaccurate—it’s a disservice.