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.

National Hot Dog Day 2015 v1

Harvey Shinblock can’t be the first lawyer who wanted to open a hot-dog stand.

So today, Thursday, is National Hot Dog Day. Don’t believe me? Well, would the Des Moines Register lie to you?

Not legal enough a topic for your bloggish reading? Stick around. I’ll get to the legal in a moment.

In the meantime, here are a few places in the Phoenix area you might enjoy a hot dog.

Musing on the wonderment of wieners, I was curious about this, so I checked: In the five-plus years I’ve written my daily blog, I’m chagrined to note that the words “hot dog” appear more than a dozen times.

That seems high for a legal blog. Agreed? Well, maybe it’s a cry for help.

In any casing (see what I did there?), I thought I would share my first-ever documented blogular use of the phrase. It occurred in the prologue to a legal novel I wrote (detail about that endeavor is here.)

The book is titled The Supremes, and it involves a new law firm composed of former state supreme court justices. They thought clients would come knocking—which they did—but the law firm partners underestimated how much they disliked each other—and disliked hard work.

The hot dog reference came early, when the new firm’s administrator thinks about Harvey Shinblock, a colorful lawyer who is now disbarred (for numerous offenses, including a Circle K assault with a pocketknife). Harvey owns a hot-dog stand, and he carries quite a grudge against the legal profession. Here’s a portion:

Bernie Galvez liked hot dogs, and Harvey Shinblock sold the best in the city.

Galvez smiled as he recalled how Shinblock had managed to get 30 days in the county lockup for his “misunderstanding” at the convenience store—the best lawyering Shinblock had ever done, representing himself before old Judge Barnes. And after that 30 days, Shinblock woke up driven by a dream of opening his own hot-dog stand.

Human nature being the self-destructive little imp that it is, Shinblock drove his metaphoric stake in the ground on the sidewalk right outside the criminal courts complex. There, he gazed balefully as lawyers and judges streamed by him daily. If looks could kill—or wound with a pocketknife—those members of the bench and bar would have been a bloody mess on the Phoenix streets.

National Hot Dog Day 2015But maybe they got their comeuppance. For in the last three years since Shinblock opened “Court Wieners,” he had received the praise of every publication in town, from the “Best in Phoenix” to the “Best in the Southwest” to the “Best Nooner in a Casing.” Shinblock knew what he was doing as he steamed his hand-crafted dogs.

Nonetheless, no lawyer or judge was ever known to be brave enough to step up and purchase a meal. The history, the bad blood, and the fear of poisoning kept a significant portion of the suited sidewalk denizens from venturing forward and trying Shinblock’s bliss in a bun. They salivated and gnashed their teeth, but the gray and blue army marched past the stainless steel stand, thinking hungrily that they may have been a tad hard on good old Shinblock. Still, march by they did.

The complete prologue is here. Want to keep reading? Here’s Chapter 1.

And … do get out and eat a hot dog.