It is a question which has haunted humanity for generations. It has divided America, pitting husband against wife, brother against brother, normally reasonable people against typically level-headed folks. It has, on numerous occasions, sent Twitter to the brink of insanity. It is time, once and for all, to answer the question to end all questions: is a hot dog a sandwich?
The sandwich, as we know it, is said to have been invented by John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). It is said that the Earl, an inveterate gambler, desired to take his meal in such a manner so as not to necessitate his leaving the gaming table. His servants would bring him meat and cheese between two slices of bread, the habit was noted by his gambling contemporaries, and soon many were ordering “the same as Sandwich.” Thus, history tells us, was the sandwich born.
This history may be accurate insofar as the name of the sandwich, but the act of putting meat between a couple pieces of bread is undoubtedly far older. Most people believe Mark 10:9 is about marriage. Well, it’s not. That’s right, that verse you had read at your wedding is actually a biblical injunction to not eat your sandwich ingredients separately like a crazy person. The Council of Nicea would later rule on the matter in an oft-overlooked addendum adopted by the Council brought on by the clash between Arius and Alexander of Alexandria, with Nicholas of Myra declaring that “as the Son has no beginning but has an eternal derivation from the Father and therefore is co-equal with Him, so is thy mutton co-equal with thy 2 pieces of bread.”
The sandwich also has a long secular pedigree. Julius Caesar’s main objective in Gaul was capturing what Caesar termed “the recipe for that great crusty bread paired with cheese by the tribe of Vercingetorix.” Nobles who owned deli slicers were noted in the Doomsday Book. The first Swedish-Bremen war of 1653-1654 was fought mainly over the Hanseatic refusal to recognize Charles X Gustav’s very Swedish dictate about mayonnaise. Queen Victoria was given the same panini press by four different people as a wedding gift.
The hot dog, by contrast, is a relatively recent invention. It seems to have been invented simultaneously in the 1870s on both Coney Island by a German immigrant named Charles Feltman and in St. Louis by a Bavarian named Feuchtwanger. The story goes that Mrs. Feuchtwanger was tired of her husband losing money because he kept giving gloves to lady customers who purchased his sausages and then didn’t return the gloves, so she made him start using buns. History does not record if Mrs. Feltman had any similar involvement in her husband’s decision to use buns.
None of that is dispositive about the question at hand one way or another, which leads us to another story from the early days of the hot dog. A man named Harry M. Stevens owned concession stands at the old Polo Grounds in New York City around the turn of the century. Some of his German vendors sold sausages on rolls. When asked by a newspaper man what they were, Mr. Stevens called them “Dachshund sandwiches” both due to the shape of the sausage and as an homage to his German employees. The reporter (actually a cartoonist with the New York Post, natch), unable to spell “Dachshund”, called them “hot dogs” when he drew up the cartoon of the vendors selling their wares.
So there you have it. But for the poor spelling and possible anti-German immigrant leanings of one newspaper cartoonist, we would be calling them Dachshund sandwiches today, and the debate over whether or not they’re a sandwich wouldn’t even exist. So instead of arguing over whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich, let us all just agree that we’re lucky to be calling them hot dogs at all.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.