Is a hot dog a sandwich?
It sounds like a simple question, but it’s a way more divisive issue than I could have predicted with both sides refusing to concede any ground. And a topical debate as summer officially starts today, which kicks off the grilling season with 40-percent of all dawgs sold between Memorial Day and Labor Day. (In fact, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, that adds up to 7 billion hot dogs.)
And what better location to have this debate than, of course, in a giant hot dog—Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobile to be exact. As I rolled through Manhattan traffic (not an easy task as you can image in the oversized vehicle), I kept pestering Jeff Mauro, host of the Food Network’s aptly named show the Sandwich King, about what is and what is not a sandwich.
The hot dog? “The definitive answer is yes! Because there is the kingdom of sandwiches and then you have the class of horizontal cased meats and under that in the phylum is hot dog,” he explains. “It’s between carbs. It’s handheld. It eats and chews like a sandwich and there are two independent sides.”
While he builds a convincing case, he admits that “people argue over this like sports.” And during the summer, almost every day people try to get him to weigh in on the matter on social media. “People get heated about it online. The passion runs deep,” he says. But he admits he’s getting weary of fighting about it. “I don’t have time. I got a family. I got jobs. I got TV shows. I can’t sit there and play devil’s advocate.”
Not totally satisfied, I started coming up with other items whose status in the kingdom of sandwiches seemed suddenly questionable. How about a falafel? “Falafel is a sandwich.” Burritos? “Yes. It’s under the kingdom of sandwiches but way down. Is an ape a human? Not really, but we’re still part of the same family.” Finally, how about soup in a bread bowl? “No. Definitively not a sandwich because it’s, first of all, all liquid. It has to be solid. You have to be able to take out the ingredients and put them on a table. You can’t do that with a bread bowl.”
Interestingly, while Mauro comes from Chicago, one of America’s hot dog capitals, he isn’t particularly precious about how he prepares his frankfurter. In fact, his latest creation tops a grilled sausage with scallion cream cheese, bacon crumbles and everything bagel seasonings on a brioche bun. “It’s like a bagel dog without the bagel part but with all the flavors of the bagel,” he explains. “What I like about it is that you can justify eating it for breakfast and no one will judge you for eating a hot dog for breakfast.”
Hmm…Unfortunately, the concoction sounds like blasphemy to me and I think you’d be hard pressed to find one served in the five boroughs. It’s a real shame, since I thought we saw eye to eye on hot dogs and put our dawg differences behind us. At least we can agree that it's a sandwich.
Read on for a look inside one of Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobiles.