The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

Dear Bert: Is Spaghetti a Salad?

Grace Thomas

Dear Bert,

Is spaghetti a salad? Is a hotdog a sandwich? And is cereal a soup? 


Dear Foodie Philosopher(s), 

Alas, ever since I began sharing my wisdom with you all, I have feared answering these questions. But I shall attempt to clear up your three part question. To sooth your metaphysical-munchies, we first have to know what’s on the menu. 

By that, I mean, we must understand the method by which we will classify the foods in question. When deciding what makes something a sandwich, cereal or soup, we must clarify our classifications. We will go one at a time, making a — hopefully agreed upon— definition of each item and seeing how your queries line up with them, which hopefully can sate your Aristotelian appetite. 

Firstly, your question of salads and spaghetti. I must admit, I’ve never heard such a comparison. I found it preposterous at first: “of course it’s not,” I said. But in the spirit of sharing wisdom, I will hear you out. A salad, rhetorically speaking, is a jumble, a mix. It implies a variety of ingredients that are incorporated into a single dish with no preparation other than crudely mixing them together. When you make a typical salad, the process usually goes as follows: collect your ingredients— your lettuce, other veggies and mix-ins, croutons and dressing if you so desire— place them in a bowl, and mix. Its beauty is in its simplicity. Spaghetti is an entirely different story! First you have to cook your pasta, strain it, incorporate a sauce, stir and continue to cook, only then to plate it (and that doesn’t even account for if you want meatballs with it). It requires significantly more time and preparation, with considerably less variation. The joy of a salad is the customization, something spaghetti simply cannot offer. The Court of Bert has ruled unanimously against spaghetti being a salad. I hope this result does not disappoint you, Saucy-Socrates.  

What is a sandwich? Well, I would hope we can agree that a sandwich needs two things: a vehicle and a filling. While bread is the most common vehicle in which a sandwich is presented, we must expand our horizons to other options. Our sandwich fillings can be placed upon a multitude of different things, perhaps you’ve seen someone order a burger on a bed of greens, letting lettuce encase the burger fillings, and so on. It’s not for me to weigh in on if that is in good taste, but nonetheless we’ve established that anything, glutenous or not, can be sandwich vehicles. What is important about our discussion of sandwiches is the essential properties it provides. A sandwich is a hand-held food that can be approached from every side. This allows for an eating experience that is both simple and effective, as all contents of the sandwich are maintained equally from start to finish. 

Now that we have established this common ground for what we are to work upon, I will make my position known: a hotdog is not a sandwich. As said prior, a sandwich implies a food that has many angles of attack for eating. A hotdog, then, has only two main avenues for consumption. You wouldn’t eat a hotdog from the side would you? No! Of course not! You begin with one end of the dog and travel length wise. Secondly, I can understand your confusion, Nibbling-Nietzsche, because a hotdog is typically encased in a bread-like bun. But consider this, do any sandwiches have just one piece of bread that surrounds it on three sides? Yes, I admit we have open-faced sandwiches rarely, but never have I seen a sandwich that fully encase. Now, I anticipate your objection, astute-eater: “but what about sub-sandwiches? They are a single piece of sliced bread with fillings in the middle, surely a hotdog is no different?” Rest assured, I’ve considered this, and have decided that a sub is a specialized sandwich; a subsection under the sandwich umbrella. However, I ask you, imagine a sandwich. Do you see one that has fillings placed between two slices of bread? I imagine you do. The two slice method is the platonic-ideal of a sandwich, and subs are merely a modification on the formula. A sub is a sandwich, but not every sandwich is a sub. But you ask if a hotdog is a sandwich, not a sub, and to that I say quite definitely no

Finally, we arrive at the most puzzling of your inquiries: is cereal a soup? I must say, what seemed so obvious to me at first revealed to be far more of a nuanced issue than I expected. My instinct was at first to say no. But upon doing some research, I’ve concluded that the issue has merits to both sides. I looked first to various dictionaries to hopefully find some answer. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines soup as “a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food.” This seems to support both answers, doesn’t it, my Hungry-Hegel? While the medium of milk isn’t mentioned in Merriam’s definition, the supposition of solid food being suspended in the liquid is spot on for cereal. Upon consulting other dictionaries, hoping to compare the definitions, I stumbled upon Encyclopedia Britannica‘s operational definition of soup: “soupliquid food prepared by cooking meat, poultry, fish, legumes, or vegetables with seasonings in water, stock, milk, or some other liquid medium.” Bingo. That confirms it; if milk is a used liquid medium for soup, then cereal must be a soup— albeit a simple one. While the British may make questionable decisions with their food, they are certainly right with this one. Synthesizing our two definitions of soup, it is abundantly clear to me that cereal is indeed a soup.

Now, if any of my answers upset you, Smart-Snacker, I invite you to write again explaining where I have gone wrong. My assertions are that of just one cat, but I hope you can at least appreciate the attempt to come at these questions from a place of logic. What makes these questions of food classifications are so incredibly curious because of how diverse food is. What a sandwich or soup looks like to me, might not be your experience, and if it isn’t, I want to hear about it! This is simply just my views on the matter, informed by my own experiences, and by no means are universals for all food. 

Anyways, stay hungry and curious, you Crunchy-Kantian,


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