The Hot Dog Dilemma

3 hot dogs

What is the problem here?

And no, it’s not just that in Canadian core French classes, they tried to teach us it’s called a ‘chien chaud’ and literally no French person has ever called them that (they just say “‘ot dog”). The real dilemma, and what everyone has been asking me since I started this blog, and what people have been fighting over since the internet was just a collection of chat rooms is: Is a hot dog a sandwich? 

Ketchup mustard and relish, just cheese, and mayo, mustard and pickle

No. It is not. Not really. I mean it shouldn’t be. It’s its own thing. I’m firmly on team “Is not”.

But…..technically yes, it actually is. The science checks out.

Categorically, can in be classified into the general class of sandwiches? Absolutely! It’s a second cousin, once removed that is still super close with the core sandwich family. 

The Family

I love hot dogs. And not just the Jumbos, or concession franks. The best ones are the small grocery store ones. The elation and validation I felt when I bought my first ever New York City hot dog from a cart and saw that it was just a little wet basic wiener was incredible. It was like every boiled hot dog I ever had as a kid. That’s the proper way by the way. It’s how they’ve always been done, even before that pesky bun showed up and started this dumb argument. Boiled. 

New York hot dog cart

I admit, I usually do them incorrectly. I confess, I am a filthy dirty hobo hot dog nuker. 15 seconds for each dog in the microwave. That’s how it’s done at my house. Do you want to wait for water to heat up when feeding your kids? Or could you better use that time on your phone, writing your dumb blog and researching inane facts? I Thought so. 

I made this monstrosity from leftover fried rice. This is very much not a sandwich.

We eat a lot of hot dogs and I cut them up  d put them in lots of stuff too. It’s pretty much lesson one in the book of how to get your kids to eat. There is really a lot to be said about hot dogs. Where do you start? Foot long? German origins? Nathan’s on Coney Island? Smokies? 

Or do we start with that damn bun? 

History

Around a century after that degenerate gambler and British aristocrat John Montagu ‘invented’ the sandwich by putting his meat between bread so as not to muck his cards, a similar epiphany came to wiener slingers in America. 

Wiener, is the German word for Vieneese. In Vienna however,  wieners were called frankfurters. In the beginning it seemed that neither Austria or Germany fully wanted to claim the ownership of our plucky little tube-steak. No one did. At least not until the mid late 19th century. 

It was then that German immigrants began selling boiled wieners as street food from carts in the USA. Mostly in larger cities such as New York and Chicago as well as St. Louis. Initially, they would serve the hot boiled sausage with a glove so customers wouldn’t burn their fingers. The customers wouldn’t always return the gloves however, and so just as it had happened to the Earl of sandwich, a collective epiphany came in the form of having fresh rolls on hand to sling their meat to the masses. 

As for the name Hot Dog, that was literally just a xenophobic slang used to suggest that Germans ate dog meat. With that extra prejudice nicely attached, the wiener/frankfurter/hot dog finally had a country who wanted to fully claim her as their own. The good ol’ U S of A. 

Today:

Though the hot dog in its present form is largely seen as being American, every region of the world, and even different cities and states have their own regional version of what a hot dog should be, and many are quite opinionated about it. Still, the typical north American household standard is the New York boiled style I mentioned above. Often with ketchup and mustard. Sometimes relish

I can really only talk about the kinds of dogs I’m familiar with. There are really too many, and though I will endeavor to try them all in my life, I’ll just briefly go over what I’ve had and love.

First:

European.

My mom lived in Switzerland for a while in her youth and occasionally bought us these special euro style hot dogs. They’re sort or orange/tan on the outside and light on the inside and their casing has a great snap to it. We’d eat them in a warm Italian style roll. I wish I had one right now. They are in most grocery stores, but are pretty expensive. 

Foot long

I think the only times I’ve eaten foot longs were at Blades games at Sask Place. If you don’t know what that is, I don’t blame you. They’re just a regular concession hotdog but really big. You don’t see them much these days. I suppose they’re a pretty annoying item to deal with if you ran a food business. Maybe they were just an 80’s and 90’s thing. Am I wrong about that?

Smokies

There is no Wikipedia article for smokies. I guess it’s a Canadian thing. A smokie is a big thick smoked sausage usually used at BBQs and campfires. Most Canadian hot dog carts will have them too. Bison, jalapeno and cheesy are all pretty popular. The cheese filled ones are my favourite. Biting into one and seeing cheese ooze from the pores is pretty disgustingly satisfying. 

Edit: After accidentally consulting my partner, as well as some other Ontarians and eastern Canadians, I discovered that Smokies are uniquely a western Canadian thing. I guess they’ve shown up recently in grocery stores across the country but most folks my age had never had one until they moved out this way. They only had the Johnsonville style raw sausages. A smokie doesn’t come raw. it’s… well, smoked. More in-line with a smoked farmers sausage, but sized for buns and BBQ. I’ve you’ve not had the pleasure, come west, young one!

Danish

I went to Denmark last year to visit some of the missus’ family. They’re pretty into their dogs there. I had me a rød pølse which I guess is their national thing. It’s a long red wiener. It was pretty good and I like their weird mayo and stuff. I guess there are fancier versions that I could have tried, but this was the recommended, and it was pretty good. Standard euro style with a cool colour is my assessment.

Japadog

Not actually from Japan, but Pacific Northwest. There’s a chain in Vancouver with this same name. It’s a great way to eat a hotdog. Unless big course you don’t like mayo or bonito flakes. I loved it.  

Chicago

Poppyseed bun, thick dog and no ketchup. Gotta say, I love the no ketchup rule. Mostly because I have the idea that ketchup is something that should never be put on anything claiming to be a sandwich. Though I like the pickle and onions etc, no ketchup is not enough to make a Chicago Dog and sandwich. Also, I do use ketchup on my dogs about 70 percent of the time…. because they are not sandwiches. 

Get to the Point

Ok, brass tacks now. Why do I say a hot dog is not a sandwich? Well is a wrap a sandwich? Again No. Not to me, But taxonomically it also falls into the general class of “Sandwich”.

What constitutes a food falling into the general class of Sandwiches? The are 4 points. 

  1. Exterior pieces
  2. Carb based
  3. Portable
  4. Horizontal orientation. 

Now which is a hot dog missing?

A hot dog is vertical. You place the bun on its side and the meat faces up. No other sandwich has this quality with the possible exception of old style, wedge cut Subway sandwiches. For all you youngins out there, instead of the hinge cut they now use, Subway used to cut a wedge out of the top of the bun, and fill the interior, placing the cut out wedge of bread back on top after completion. Though this was vertical, they did not place the bun on its side and the did top it with the cut out piece so it was still technically a sandwich. It was still however, perverse, and they thankfully cut it out (pun intended) in the late 90’s. 

Now the vertical orientation also makes trouble for another point in the test. The exterior pieces. Because of its orientation, it’s fairly imperative that the hinge on the bun stay intact, less your wiener roll out completely. If you were to orient your Frank horizontal with a hinge-less bun, they cylindrical shape causes the top of the bun to roll off. These scenarios also effect the portability point so any attempt to correct the other two problems causes the whole thing to literally fall apart. 

This is the primary reason that a hot dog is not a sandwich. It does not follow the rules. That said, it is close enough, that it still belongs in the general classification of “Sandwich”. In the same way that a platypus and echidna are in the mammalian class. Even though they lactate weird, and lay eggs.  A hot dog is in the Sandwich family even though it’s vertical and hinged. It’s still not a fish or bird or reptile. It’s carb based, and portable, and platypi are warm blooded and furry.

My lousy chart

So, for your amusement I, along with my oldest daughter Pearl (who is now nearly 11), have crafted a chart of sandwich taxonomy. We start with the most general in “kingdom” and work our way to the more specific all the way to particular hot dog species. Some of whom we’ve just talked about above.

Honestly, I hope this clears this bullshit up once and for all. 

Here are some example of various other species of hot dog:

 

 

 

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