If you ever want to derail a conversation, all you have to do is get people talking about whether or not various foods are sandwiches. I once saw a professional meeting devolve into 30 minutes of utter chaos while two food editors yelled at each other about whether or not a hamburger was a sandwich. And the beauty of this is that you can do it with just about anything. Is a wrap a sandwich? Is a taco a sandwich? Is a ravioli a sandwich? Is a Smuckers Uncrustable a ravioli? I'm pretty sure you could say that a bowl of spaghetti was a sandwich, and someone would find a way to support it.
Of all the sandwich debates that have split the food world for generations, the longest-running is the question of whether or not a hot dog counts as a sandwich. There are a lot of variables to consider. Does a bun count as bread? Does a hot dog count as meat? Now, finally, we have an official ruling from Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A hot dog is a sandwich.
It's not that simple, of course, but the logic by which Ginsburg gets to her answer is flawless.
Ginsburg appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and Colbert tried to stump her by asking about "one of the most divisive issues in our country."
"Is a hot dog a sandwich?" he asked (at 2:40 in the above video.)
An ordinary person might have answered yes or no, and then argued to support that point. But the Notorious RBG is a very smart woman who is very good at her job, and she approached the question the way a very smart person would.
"You tell me what a sandwich is, and then I'll tell you if a hot dog is a sandwich," she said.
Kids should study this in school. Define your terms at the beginning, and as you go.
Colbert looks almost stumped, and he proceeds carefully, defining a sandwich as, "Two pieces of bread with almost any type of filling in between, as long as it's not more bread."
Ginsburg then makes him define "two pieces" and "bread."
"You said two pieces of bread," she said. "Does that include a roll that's cut open but still not completely?"
At that point even Colbert seemed impressed.
"This is why you're in the Supreme Court," he said.
Colbert agrees that the bread issue is the crux of the debate, but he says that a sub sandwich is also on a roll that is cut open, but not completely. And a sub sandwich is clearly a sandwich—it's in the name.
"So a hot dog is a sandwich?" he asks.
"On your definition it is, yes," she says.
"Well played, Lady Justice," Colbert says. He looks genuinely impressed.
We finally have an official ruling from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A hot dog is a sandwich. Unless, of course, you have a different definition of "sandwich," in which case, get ready to rumble.
Is a hot dog a sandwich?