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Dan Pashman
Photograph: Lila CretcherDan Pashman

The case for hot dogs as sandwiches

Foodie Podcaster Dan Pashman explains his logic for why hot dogs are sandwiches, despite John Hodgman’s contrary argument

Written by
Tolly Wright

As the home of the some of the best hot dogs, and Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog eating contest, four pro-baseball stadiums (including minor league teams) and many of the most opinionated people in the world, New Yorkers can acutely feel the stakes—and the ground-steaks—of the polite war between comedian John Hodgman and foodie Dan Pashman: Are hot dogs sandwiches or not?

Inspired by John Hodgman’s controversial ruling against hot-dogs-as-sandwiches in his “Judge John Hodgman” New York Times Magazine column, Dan Pashman, host of the Cooking Channel’s You’re Eating it Wrong, took an opposing stand with a strict pro-hot-dog-as-a-sandwich thesis on his podcast The Sporkful. Now, over a year later, he’s invited Hodgman to debate the subject in full at The Sporkful Live. In advance of the live event at the Bell House though, Pashman took the opportunity to break down his argument for us. If you’re not convinced by the end, read Hodgman’s impassioned point-of-view here.

Why is a hot dog a sandwich?

I am the Scalia of Sandwiches, a strict constructionist: I believe that we must look to the Earl of Sandwich, to the framer's original intent, to understand the definition of a sandwich. The Earl wanted to be able to eat his dinner with his hands without his hands getting all messy, so he put a piece of meat between two pieces of bread, and the sandwich was born. So what was the Earl of Sandwich's intent? Well, I believe that there is a two-part definition based on the Earl's original intent. The first is that you must be able to pick up a sandwich and eat it without your hands touching the fillings. This doesn't mean it has to be bread, but your hands can't touch the fillings.

And the second part?
The second part, and this is a little more controversial, is that I think the fillings must be sandwiched between two food items. That's why a burrito is not a sandwich, because that's a wrapping, not a sandwich. The Earl would not recognize a wrapping as derivative of his creation.

But isn’t a sandwich bun really just one piece of bread?

I believe that a hinged bun or a hinged roll is really just a roll that has not been fully severed. If you can sever the hinge without fundamentally altering the structure then it is still a sandwich. If the hinge breaks on a taco, then it's not a taco anymore, it's a mess. It ceases to be a taco because it has lost the form. I believe that anything with a hinged bun where you can sever the hinge without fundamentally altering the structure is a sandwich, and by that logic, a hot dog is a sandwich.

Word of Warning for Hodgman:

There's going to be hot dogs at the debate, so tell Hodgman that after the debate, I hope he's ready to sit down with me and enjoy a nice sandwich.

See the show!

The Sporkful Live
  • Comedy
  • price 2 of 4

What is the exact definition of a sandwich? Are hot dogs sandwiches? Are they their own separate, non-sandwich entity? Or are they even food? All of these questions are answered when comedian John Hodgman (The Daily Show) and The Sporkful host Dan Pashman go head-to-head in the most epic debate about sausages you could ever hope for. WNYC's Brooke Gladstone moderates.

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