Art by Geena San Diego
Throughout history, great philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates have thought hard to answer age-old essential questions.
"What is the meaning of life?"
"Why do we exist?"
"What happens when we die?"
"Is Mr. Hicks secretly a robot?"
I'm pretty convinced that the answer to the last one is yes. But besides all of these, one single question exists that has puzzled everyone more than any other, a question that only those who possess supernatural mental capabilities can answer, a question so profoundly difficult to comprehend that anyone able to answer it must be a god themself.
"Is a hot dog a hamburger?"
Being the noble defender of justice that I am, I will boldly deliver you the truest truth, and uncover the answer to this complex inquiry. And while we're at it, we'll answer a few more incredibly deep questions in the process.
"Is a taco a sandwich?"
"Is a poptart a calzone?"
"Is cereal a soup?"
"Should someone ever have to put themselves through the torture of eating brussels sprouts?"
I can answer the last one quite easily. No. They're disgusting. Anyways, onto the eternal question, you clicked on this article for. And the answer, my friends… well it's actually surprisingly simple.
If we consult the Oxford English Dictionary (which I own, get flexed on), we can very easily answer this question. The definition of "hamburger" that you'll find is "(a bread bun containing) seasoned minced beef formed into a round flat cake or patty, fried or grilled and usually served with onion, relish, etc."
Well, there you have it. A hot dog is indeed NOT a hamburger. It IS a bread bun that can have seasoned minced beef in it (although not all hot dogs are of that composition), however, it is NOT formed into a round flat cake or patty. Apparently, the word "hamburger" can also be used to describe someone from the town of Hamburg in northern Germany. Who knew.
But this is not the end of our quest. If a hot dog isn't a hamburger… is it a sandwich? This question is a bit more interesting, and the dictionary doesn't provide as straight of an answer as it did for our titular dilemma. If we consult this ever-reliable gargantuan of a book, we first find out that "John Montagu, the fourth earl of sandwich (1718-92), [was] said to have eaten food in this form so as to avoid having to leave the gaming table."
I'm not making this up, that's what it actually says (I find it kinda weird that the food was named after the place and not the person, but whatever. Maybe I'll start calling them "montagus").
The word has a surprising amount of definitions, but the one most applicable to our philosophical conundrum is as follows: "A set of two or more (especially buttered) slices of bread with a usually savory filling between them."
This definition is much vaguer than that of the famous not-actually-American delicacy, and it takes a bit longer to determine whether a hot dog qualifies as a sandwich or not. You see, the definition requires there be two slices of bread, but a hotdog bun is a single piece of bread. However, what if we were to rip this hotdog bun apart along its "hinge". In my experience, this often happens when I eat hot dogs, even when I try to keep the bun intact. If we let the dictionary answer our question, then I think it's safe to say that a hot dog is, in fact, a sandwich. It has the two pieces of bread, it has the filling, and apparently, that's all you need. Tacos and burritos are in no way shape or form a sandwich, and I think that a quesadilla wouldn't qualify as a sandwich, as tortillas aren't really bread?
Maybe you can figure that out on your own sometimes. And while we're at it, I might as well say that by this definition, three pieces of bread stacked on top of each other would qualify as a sandwich.
So are we done? Well not quite yet, as I promised to inform all of you on a multitude of food-related questions. Next up on our journey to pure enlightenment: determining whether cereal is a soup.
Now, I want you to know that by cereal, I mean cereal with milk. Not dry cereal, that would just be its own thing. Or could it be trail mix? I think trail mix has to have different things in it. So is lucky charms trail mix? Or… is TRAIL MIX actually CEREAL?! What even counts as cereal? Is there alphabet cereal? Or is it that alphabet soup IS cereal? SO MANY QUESTIONS! I guess we'll have to define cereal first. And, uh, the dictionary just says that it's food made from wheat, maize, or another grain. DOES THAT MEAN BREAD IS CEREAL!? HOT DOG BUNS ARE CEREAL!? This stupid dictionary just gave us MORE questions. I guess we'll have to take matters into our own hands.
Let's say that by "cereal" we mean "anything that a normal person would call cereal. With milk in it, obviously. That you put after the cereal. Right? Don't tell me you put the milk first. And don't say something stupid like 'actually, I put the bowl first.' No one cares.”
I guess there's a reason I don't write dictionaries.
Anyway, let's go see how our no-longer-trustworthy gargantuan book describes "soup."
"A usually savory liquid food made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables, et. cetera, with seasoning in stock or water."
Cereal is DEFINITELY not soup. By our definition, at least. Maybe some soups could qualify as cereal? It depends on whose definition we use. But in my humble opinion, each of the two foods is distinct from one another.
And that brings us to our final question: Is a pop tart a calzone? For this question, our previous favorite book, the Oxford dictionary, redeems itself with a not-terrible definition. It simply states that a calzone is "a type of pizza folded in half". I don't think we have to define "pizza" to say that a pop tart is definitely NOT anything of the sort. There is no doubt about it: a pop-tart is in no way, shape, or form a calzone, and should not be on the menu of Ben Wyatt's low-cal calzone zone.
Well, we've certainly been on a journey today, and have both learned a lot from it. But there are so many more questions to answer that we haven't even thought of yet! Don't worry, my young padawan. With these newfound philosophical skills I have passed on to you, I'm sure you can unearth the answers by yourself.