I arrived at work on Tuesday to find an envelope with the following letter on the other side of the door. My boss hadn't seen it; so it must have been delivered some time after about 8am. As there was no other correspondence attached, I found this really amusing and clearly it demanded an answer.
You have often looked into things for us on matters of taxation and the answers that you have given are always well researched and well thought out. I have read your blog for many years and have always thought it to be as equally as well researched and thought out as the advice that you give us.
A buddy of mine and I are having a dispute over whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. He contends that because it is meat inside bread that it is a sandwich and I say that it is its own thing. Which one of is right? Is a hot dog a sandwich or not a sandwich? Please give reasons and evidence.
A person much wiser than I once said that there nothing new under the sun, and I am absolutely sure that this is one of those hoary old topics that gets argued and reargued on internet because as an issue that doesn't really matter, it matters more intensely than a thousand suns burning out simultaneously and exploding in a flash of brilliance. This is the sort of intractable topic that gets raged over and across many internet forums, bulletin boards, the pages of Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, MySpace &c. and which making a judgement on ism like peeing into an ocean of urine. One pronouncement makes near enough zero difference as to be negligible.
Nevertheless, this is sort of thing over which coffee, pints of beer, fivers, and kudos, are won and so for me not to answer this would be like tearing the fabric of space time itself.
In answering this question, one has to begin with the ontological question of what is the nature of the beast itself. What is and is not a sandwich and is a hot dog in one of these states?
Firstly though, I need to clarify what is meant by a hot dog. Now obviously it could just refer to the suspicious meat tube thing but if someone gave you one of those if you'd ordered a hot dog, you'd quite rightly wave that thing around in their face like the wobbly thing it is. A hot dog is a frankfurt in a bun, with additional toppings which include sauce, mustard, relish, chilli, cheese and what not. Get it? Got it? Good.
What is a sandwich, though?
The apocryphal tale of John Montague the 4th Earl of Sandwich, says that the inveterate gambler asked for his servants to bring him some meat between two pieces of bread so that he could continue his inveterate gambling. I think it utterly impossible that at no point in history, nobody ever thought of this before. That sounds exactly like when the British "discovered" things like rivers and mountains in places they'd invaded but were too poxy to ask the locals what they called them.
If this is the prototypical model of the sandwich that we're working toward, then logic demands that we actively try to break the model to find out what a sandwich is not.
A sandwich is not merely something surrounded by bread. If this was the case, then we should by rights include, the kebab, which is things inside a rolled up piece of bread, the tortilla, which is similar in spirit, and the burger, which has many sandwich like qualities but is still not really a sandwich.
We also need to consider the dilemma that a submarine sandwich and all its regional names such as the grinder, slider and hoagie are sandwiches. They to have hinged buns, or in the case of Subway subs the "U cut", and not normal slices of bread. They do demonstrate something which I think is fundamental to the sandwichiness of sandwiches and that is that if you can cut the thing into a several smaller pieces, which you can do with a foot long sandwich by cutting it into 6 and 3 inch bits, and you still don't alter what the thing is, then you have a sandwich.
Demonstrably you can cut sandwiches into little triangles and those smaller pieces are still sandwiches. You can cut a foot long sub into smaller pieces and they are still sandwiches. You can not cut a hot dog in half because then you have half a hot dog. You can not cut a burger in half because then you have half a burger. You can not cut a kebab in half because then you have half a kebab.
The other thing which needs mentioning is the case of the Oreo which styles itself as a "sandwich cookie". Here sandwich is perfectly acceptable because it is being used as an adjective. To sandwich something is to place it between two other things. It should be pointed out that although an Oreo might very well be a "sandwich cookie" it is not a sandwich because if you snap one in half then you have two halves of an Oreo and not two sandwiches.
This then is the underlying principle which defines what a sandwich is. If the thing divides into smaller pieces which are also sandwiches, then the thing is a sandwich; if it divides into things which of themselves are not sandwiches, then they too are not sandwiches. To wit, a salad roll in is not a sandwich because when divided it makes bits of a salad roll but those fillings on a piece of focaccia do become a sandwich because if you cut it up into smaller pieces, then you still get sandwiches. If you take the exact opposite scenario and place hotdogs between two pieces of bread, then although you might have a hotdog sandwich it certainly is not a hot dog.
While I am on this bakery induced bender, I have something to say to that fast food chain McDonald's. In some countries you refer to the Big Mac and McChicken as sandwiches. I can understand you trying to shoehorn your product into a classification but anyone who considers cutting a Big Mac in half, has clearly lost part of their mental faculties. Such an action is crazy bonkers and you should probably reconsider your literature.
As for the legal aspects of this subject, I don't think that there's any sort of mystical sandwich authority which I can refer to and even if there is it must be some secret society that has no website. As far as the law is concerned, there isn't any distinction between any of those things for GST purposes and neither is there any distinction in the relevant hospitality laws either.
So there you go Steve, a sandwich is a bready thing with fillings inside and which can be cut into smaller pieces and still be called a sandwich. A hot dog fails at this working definition and is therefore its own thing which is called a hot dog. A hot dog is NOT a sandwich.