We wrestle with the age-old question: Is a hot dog a sandwich? What a time to be alive.

We wrestle with the age-old question: Is a hot dog a sandwich? What a time to be alive.

You know that universal rule about food? “Never go to the grocery store when you’re hungry.”

Turns out, the same is true for blog writing. For when I write on the intersection of food and law, I often find myself yearning for the first—and ignoring the second.

So on Change of Venue Friday, I raise that age-old and tasty question: What is a sandwich?

What is a sandwich? Have I completely lost it?

Not at all. In fact, let’s open this blog-meal by watching this great Atlantic video, which explains the tax consequences (at least in New York State) that flow from whether a food product is deemed a sandwich:

At least one British journalist has been flummoxed by this quintessential American question, as you can see here, where the whole enwrapped story of “sandwich ontology” is explored.

As the writer winds his way toward his hot-dog-IS-a-sandwich conclusion (madness!), he cannot resist an arcane side-dish that examines America as a delicatessen whose daily special is mimicry:

“America is a country founded by people from someplace else on ideas borrowed from someplace else, ultimately to try to distinguish itself from every place else. It is a fraught balance of identity – to take and be of an other, yet define yourself by contrast to that other. This is the strange impulse of our ‘exceptionalism’, to always borrow something and modify it slightly, then declare the end result definitively, uniquely American.”

Tell me he didn’t put quotation marks around exceptionalism! Oh, yes he did. (Plus, he insists on clinging to the quotation-marks-inside-the-comma rule. God save the Queen.)

True sandwich experts concur in this well-seasoned debate. Dagwood sandwich blondie hot dog

True sandwich experts concur in this well-seasoned debate.

Yes, that video and news story are from a year or two ago, so you may wonder what’s the delicious news hook. Well, you may be pleased to know that The Big Question has been answered definitively—though I doubt you’ll like the result:

Yes, a hot dog is a sandwich.

At least according to those noobs at the Merriam–Webster Dictionary. In your busy summer, you may have missed the news that the dictionary folks made the determination. I leave it to the brilliant and entirely partisan correspondents at Eater to tell you the real deal.

Where do I stand on the sandwich question? Probably more aligned with Eater and the Atlantic video. But I’ve been told that intelligent people may disagree (ha!), so you may come to your own conclusions. Just don’t bring up lettuce wraps; there are limits to my definitional patience.

In the meantime, have a great weekend, whether it’s highlighted by a roll, bread, pita, or any other delicious envelopment.

Hot dog: Compact? Absolutely. Delicious? Indisputably. A sandwich? Grrr.

Hot dog: Compact? Absolutely. Delicious? Indisputably. A sandwich? Grrr.

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