Settling the Score on Great American Food Debates
We Americans can be awfully fierce when we defend the things we love — and no topic stirs up our passions as much as food.
When it comes to what we think are the best and only ways to eat and drink, we may defend our choices to the death. (Okay, so maybe not to the death, but we will argue until we are blue in the face!)
What's the best way to cut a sandwich? Does pineapple belong on pizza? Pepsi or Coke? Is a hot dog a sandwich?
We're diving into some of the biggest food debates of all time to settle the score once and for all. It's time to end the debating and enjoy the food — together.
Is a Hot Dog a Sandwich?
One of the most divisive debates of our time is whether a hot dog qualifies as a sandwich. The question has prompted countless think pieces, expert takes and heated online arguments.
Ultimately, most people seem to think the answer is a definitive NO. When "The Takeout" surveyed a group of actors, writers, athletes, journalists, radio personalities and musicians, it found that 56 percent did not think a hot dog was a sandwich, vs. just 27 percent who did. (Some respondents leaned yes or no without picking a side, while others, probably wisely, abstained from answering altogether.)
Meanwhile, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council has also declared that a hot dog is not a sandwich, saying "Limiting the hot dog's significance by saying it's 'just a sandwich' is like calling the Dalai Lama 'just a guy.'"
But, well — the people and the council are wrong.
Merriam-Webster defines a sandwich as "two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between" or "one slice of bread covered with food." And what is a hot dog if not a split roll with filling inside? Moreover, the Earl of Sandwich used slices of meat in between bread to create the food that bears his name. While a hot dog is perhaps not entirely meat, it still seems to bear a striking resemblance to this very first sandwich.
As a final point, we'll quote Jeff Mauro, host of the Food Network's "Sandwich King": “The definitive answer is yes! [A hot is a sandwich.] Because there is the kingdom of sandwiches and then you have the class of horizontal cased meats and under that in the phylum is hot dog. It’s between carbs. It’s handheld. It eats and chews like a sandwich and there are two independent sides.”
Sorry, folks. Case closed.
Answer: A Hot Dog IS a Sandwich
Should Pineapple Be on Pizza?
Purists decry Hawaiian pizza, which comes topped with ham and pineapple, as nothing short of an atrocity. Even the president of Iceland has said that if he had the power, he would ban pineapple on pizza in his country.
According to a 2019 YouGov survey, most do not think highly of the tropical fruit on their beloved pizza. Nearly a quarter of respondents said pineapple is one of their least favorite toppings.
Even the demo that most digs the topping, those ages 18 to 34, don't like it all that much; just 15 percent selected it as a favorite.
Basically, the people have spoken and the answer is clear: Pineapple belongs nowhere near pizza. (Though if you like it, hey: Let your freak flag fly.)
Answer: Skip the Pineapple
What Goes on a Hot Dog?
If you want to anger anyone from Chicago, tell them you love ketchup on your hot dog. In Chi-town, locals prefer a sweet relish with mustard to give a dog a bit of spice and sugar in every bite, rather than the sugar paste of ketchup. When Heinz attempted to regain the Chicago market by rebranding its ketchup as Chicago Dog Sauce, it went over about as well as you'd expect. (Which is to say, not very well.)
Even outside of Chicago, there are plenty of people who say ketchup doesn't belong on a dog, including Barack Obama, who told Anthony Bourdain, "It's not acceptable past the age of 8."
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council gives you a little more leeway, but says it's a no-no after the age of 18.
Answer: No Ketchup for You
Does Mac 'N Cheese Get Eaten with a Spoon or a Fork?
Traditionally, one eats pasta with a fork. But what happens if the pasta is covered in a creamy melted cheese sauce? Does it then transform into a dish that should be scooped up with a spoon, a la a hearty stew, pot pie, goulash or chili?
Take a look at the box of macaroni and cheese in your pantry. Kraft, Velveeta, Annie's? They all picture their products being scooped up in a spoon.
But don't trust what you see. When Annie's conducted a survey to find out the most popular utensil, they discovered that 71 percent of adults actually prefer to use a fork when eating their mac-and-cheese.
(The exception? Kids. The same survey revealed parents give their little ones spoons for the dish in 41 out of 50 states, as it's easier to eat.)
Answer: Put a Fork in It
Is It Called a Sub, Hero or Hoagie?
What you call your 6-inch or foot-long sandwich depends on where you live.
In Philadelphia, it's a Hoagie (especially one from Wawa). In New York City, it's a Hero (a word that morphed from the Greek gyro over the years). In Louisiana, it's a Po'boy.
There are many other names for a sub sandwich, too, including Grinder (New England), Wedge (suburbs of New York City), Blimpie (New Jersey, Torpedo (Tri-State area) and Zeppelin (western Pennsylvania).
But the majority of the country, 77 percent, calls it by its preferred, simple, classic name: a Sub. Why make it more confusing than it needs to be?
Answer: It's a Sub
How Do You Say "Pecan"?
Do you pronounce it "pee-KAHN" or "PEE-can?" This much-debated topic may elicit fights at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Which is correct?
According to research out of NC State University, "PEE-can" is more commonly used in New England, the East Coast, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, meanwhile, found that "PEE-can" is used more often when talking about "PEE-can pie," but more people say "pee-KAHN" when referring to just the nut.
Merriam-Webster doesn't help in the debate, offering up multiple pronunciations. And the Cambridge Dictionary offers varying pronunciations for the U.S. and UK.
So, basically: It's really confusing and there seems to be no clear winner. But we're going to go with "PEE-can" on this one, because let's be real, "pee-KAHN" sounds super pretentious.
Answer: "PEE-can" Is Best
Do You Store Ketchup in the Fridge or a Cabinet?
When you dine out, ketchup is already on the table, kept at room temperature. But at home? Do you keep your ketchup in the cupboard or the refrigerator?
Although hell hath no fury like people on Twitter discussing cold ketchup being used on a hot burger or French fries, there is an actual answer for this food debate: It's both?
If you plan on using an opened bottle of ketchup within a few days, as is the case at a restaurant, ketchup is perfectly fine to leave on the table. However, if it is a condiment you will use sporadically over the course of a month or two, it needs to be stored in the fridge. Even Heinz, a leader in ketchup, recommends this means of storage to best maintain quality.
Answer: At Home, Use the Fridge
Should You Fold a Slice of Pizza or Not?
If you're in New York, grabbing a slice of pizza and eating it on the run is a piece of cake — the pizza is large and thin and can be folded to keep all the toppings and grease inside. But if you are in Chicago, where deep-dish pizza is king, there isn't any way to fold a slice of pie in half.
A poll conducted on "Serious Eats" back in 2013 found 60 percent of the country do fold their slice when eating. Meanwhile, personality "tests" say how you eat your pizza says a lot about you. "Cosmopolitan" magazine claims that those who eat it as is are "careful correctors" who like to plan, while folders are multi-taskers.
Answer: There Is No Right or Wrong Way
Edge Piece or Center-Cut Brownie?
When grabbing a fresh-made brownie, do you head straight for the center piece in hopes of a gooey slice, or do you reach for an edge piece that has a bit of crunch to it?
One Twitter poll (from 2016) had 61 percent of 10,055 voters preferring the center. This subject appears all over social media: @indigamerguy ran a poll in September 2019 that revealed 64 percent want "goo all day." And a 2018 poll conducted by @sinntheia similarly found that center wins, nabbing 61 percent of the vote.
Answer: Center Has the Popular Vote
How Do You Say "Caramel"?
As with "pecan," the pronunciation for "caramel" is hotly contested and no one is really right or wrong. Merriam-Webster gives the A-okay to "KARR-uh-mel," "ker-uh-muhl" and "KARR-muhl," although the Oxford Dictionary calls the latter North American English only.
Werther's Original, maker of caramels, took a survey in 2017 to finally give us the answer. And, dang, it was close: 57 percent of Americans pronounce it "ker-uh-muhl."
Answer: "Ker-uh-muhl" Is Most Popular, but Say What You Want
Does Ranch Go on Pizza?
When the first pizza was made in Naples, Italy, ranch dressing was the furthest thing from the minds of Italians. Yet, as pizza became a staple in America (eaten at least once a week by the majority of Americans), ranch dressing became a thing in which to dip your crust or slice, or even to drizzle across the top of your pizza pie.
Perhaps this developed when a salad accompanying the pizza got a bit too close and someone discovered that two great tastes tasted good together?
In 2011, "Serious Eats" conducted a poll and discovered that more than 49 percent of diners think ranch is the best thing to happen to pizza since pepperoni, vs. just 32 percent who said "no way" to the dressing. (Others split the difference by admitting, "It depends on how impaired my judgment is.")
Answer: Ranch Goes on Anything (But Italians Will Judge You)
What's the Best Way to Eat an Oreo?
There are multiple ways to eat an Oreo (or similar cream-filled cookie):
- Take a bite.
- Take off the top and lick the frosting off (then eat or throw out the cookie).
- Take the top off of two cookies and combine the two with frosting to create one giant frosting-filled cookie.
- Dip into milk.
Since the Oreo cookie was introduced in 1912, it has been beloved by Americans, yet when it comes to the best way to eat it, we all cannot agree.
An ongoing survey by "Chicago Business Journal" has two styles neck and neck: 38 percent of snackers twist, separate, then bite, while 31 percent chomp away.
Answer: It's a Cookie, Just Enjoy It!
Does a Sandwich Get Cut in Half or Diagonally?
How do you cut a sandwich (if you even do!)? Some swear by cutting it diagonally, while others quickly chop it in half as a square.
The Department of Culinary Science at the University of Vermont created a "taste to enjoyment ratio" and found that a sandwich cut into a diagonal shape provides the best chance to get the best bite. And when Chef Bobby Flay and Hellman's surveyed Americans about how we prefer to slice our sandwiches into two, 60 percent said they go with the diagonal cut.
Answer: Diagonal Is Best
Coke or Pepsi?
Pepsi unveiled a new Super Bowl commercial in 2019 starring Steve Carell that responded to the age-old question in restaurants: "Is Pepsi okay?" This is because so many people ask for a Coke that if a restaurant doesn't have it, they ask if Pepsi is okay.
It was just the latest throwdown in a battle that has been burning hot since the colas were first invented.
In the 1980s, Pepsi offered a taste challenge that showed most people preferred its product. But! Study after study in more recent years has Coke taking the lead. Rasmussen Reports found that 73 percent like Coke.
According to CNN, Coke's market share is also growing, while Pepsi's is declining.
Answer: Coca-Cola Reigns Supreme
Buffalo Chicken Drum or Flat?
When Buffalo chicken wings were introduced to the world in 1964, they inspired one of life's greatest debates: Are the drumsticks or the flat pieces the best?
Drumsticks are considered to offer more meat, but the flats provide more sauce and a crispier skin. And yet, there is no decisive survey finding one outdoes the other.
Answer: It's a Tie, to Each Their Own!
Raw Cookie Dough: Yay or Nay?
It doesn't matter that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that eating raw cookie dough should be avoided for health's sake, we still like to do it.
Ben & Jerry's first started to sell raw cookie dough in ice-cream form in the 1980s, following the love. Today, it's the No. 3 best-selling ice cream for the Vermont-based company. In 2019, the company even began peddling cookie-dough chunks without the ice cream.
Answer: Off the Record, Eat Up! (In Moderation, Of Course)
Waffles or Pancakes?
The two biggest breakfast foods have continued to stir controversy: Which is better, a pancake or a waffle?
A pancake, by definition, is a thin, flat cake of batter. A waffle uses the same batter (often) but instead of getting fried on a skillet, it's placed in a waffle iron. Some find the unique pattern best holds syrup that on a pancake soaks into or runs off the cooked batter.
An "Epicurious" poll on pancake versus waffles found them very close in popularity, with waffles slightly winning at 55 percent. On social, pancakes have more than 10.4 million hashtags, while waffles have just over 7 million.
Answer: It's a Tie!
Crispy or Soggy Cereal?
There are two types of people in this world: Those who drown their cereal in milk and wait for it to get soggy before eating, and those who use very minimal milk for a crunchier version of the breakfast food.
One research poll found that, in Australia, seven in 10 people prefer their Kellogg's Corn Flakes crunchy. Similarly, a Shopkick poll found that 85 percent of Americans prefer "crispy and crunchy, right after mixing."
Answer: Crunchy Is the Way
Are Raviolis Dumplings?
By definition, ravioli is a "pasta in the form of little cases of dough containing a savory filling (as of meat or cheese)." A dumpling is a "small mass of dough cooked by boiling or steaming."
Ravioli is an Italian dish, developed in the 14th century. A dumpling, however, dates back to 907 AD in China. Yet both are cases of dough filled with goodness.
Dumplings have more than 1.7 million posts on Instagram, while raviolis have 1.3 million.
Answer: They Are the Same
Does Ketchup Go on Fries or Do You Dip into a Side of It?
Are you someone who drenches your fries in ketchup, or do you put your ketchup on the side for dipping?
Search the polls on social media and you'll find an overwhelming result: One May 2019 poll revealed that 95 percent of people dip their fries into ketchup. Another in 2018 found 60 percent like to dip.
Show us a poll that finds ketchup should be poured over French fries and we'll introduce you to a pig that flies.
Answer: Dip, Don't Drench
Is a Burrito a Sandwich?
Circle back to what constitutes as a sandwich, and it's clear a burrito doesn't qualify: It certainly isn't a filling between two slices of bread, or on top of one slice. Yet, there are many who will argue it is a sandwich because the tortilla is basically a type of bread.
Merriam-Webster defines a burrito as a "flour tortilla rolled around a filling." A tortilla, made of flour or corn, is not bread. Yet the USDA describes a sandwich as a minimum of 35 percent cooked meat and no more than 50 percent bread. It also deems a burrito as a "Mexican style sandwich."
Answer: A Burrito Is a Burrito
Are They Called Jimmies or Sprinkles?
If you call the colorful sugar treats that top ice cream "jimmies," you are probably from New England. If you're from anywhere else in the country, you know them as "sprinkles."
Many argue that sprinkles are the small, round sugar crystals used for baking and decorating cookies and cakes, while jimmies are longer, oblong-shaped pieces specifically used for frozen desserts. Still, it doesn't make a ton of sense to have two different names for these sweet treats, besides perhaps regional pride.
In any case, on Instagram, there are 2.9 million posts hashtagged #sprinkles, vs. a mere 37,115 posts with #jimmies. Sorry, New England, you don't get the point for this one.
Winner: They're Called Sprinkles