It's lunch time. You're hungry. Boss or friend says the meal is on you -- pick out your favorite sandwich. Don't think about it long, just blurt it out. What's your favorite sandwich? I'll give you a second. It's the ____________________________. What did you say? BLT? Reuben? Egg salad? Tuna? Ham with Swiss? Roast beef? Honestly, what did you come up with when I said, "What is your favorite sandwich?"
Did you say, "Hamburger?"
My guess is -- No, you did not. Because, while both the dictionary and Wikipedia both refer to the hamburger as a "sandwich" in their definitions, we can and must agree that much like many words of yore which have taken on new or even contrary meanings from the ones they started with, a hamburger is no longer *just* a sandwich.
There is already precedent for this in the food world. The tomato, along with several other items (bell peppers, cucumbers, and squash, for starters), is botanically a fruit. However, we always recognize it as a "culinary vegetable." When you order a fruit cup at a restaurant, you never expect to see a tomato cut up amongst the pineapple, watermelon, and washed-out honeydew. That is because it is a vegetable for all intents and purposes, and everyone knows this. Just because it scientifically meets the hallmarks of a fruit does not mean it should show up on your ice cream sundae. Society has banded together on this.
Well, what constitutes a sandwich? Wikipedia says this:
A sandwich is a food item consisting of one or more types of food, such as vegetables, sliced cheese or meat, placed on or between slices of bread, or more generally any dish wherein two or more pieces of bread serve as a container or wrapper for some other food.
Immediately, this makes me as a few questions. Bread? Any bread? Or bread in loaf form, cut into slices? What happens when the ingredients used to make bread are turned into a wrap? A pita? A bagel? A submarine roll? A pretzel roll? A bun, hamburger or otherwise? Is a wrap a sandwich? Is a Philly cheesesteak a sandwich? A brat a sandwich? You already see the slippery slope we are starting to traverse.
What further presses my argument that a hamburger has become its own entity is that there are restaurants known only for their burgers. M Burger. Epic Burger. Red Robin. Five Guys. Fuddrucker's. Kuma's Corner in Chicago. You see where I'm going with this. You don't go and get a BLT or a grilled cheese at these places. The fancy ones are "burger bars." On the flip side, they are not "sandwich joints."
Conversely, there are places where you *can* go to get sandwiches -- delis, Subway, Jersey Mike's, and the like -- don't serve burgers. What puts the nail in the coffin for me is this: the places where you can get both sandwiches AND burgers? Diners, family restaurants, general places like Chili's and Applebees and whatnot? They separate their menus -- sandwiches ... and burgers.
So, while my friend Louie might be waiting for Guy Fieri to weigh in for the final word on this, I will stand loud and proud. A hamburger is not a sandwich. It is a hamburger. It may be a sandwich in name, but only in name. It is its own thing, its own category. It has its own way of being and doing, and it has its own reputation to live up to. We do not judge a BLT by the same standards we do a bacon double cheeseburger, nor should we. We do not expect the bread on a chicken salad sandwich to have to withstand the rigors of a medium rare Angus. We are not looking for a french fry on the side of a peanut butter on toast.
No, a hamburger is a hamburger and it has risen above the category of sandwich. There is nothing wrong or bad about the sandwich, but it is like trying to compare apples to tomatoes. They ostensibly are both fruits, but we both know one is now a vegetable and it goes on top of a hamburger.
What's your take? Talk to me.
Wanna stay up to date with the latest from me? Type your email address in the box in the sidebar to the right under "Subscribe by Email," and click the "create subscription" button. You will NEVER get anything else from me (no SPAM, and you can opt out at any time).