The only logical extension to "is a hot dog a sandwich?"

By Tim Nelson
October 23, 2018
Axel Bueckert / EyeEm/Getty Images

It’s 2018, and we still don’t know if a hot dog is a sandwich. It’s an absurd question without a clear answer, which explains why it’s been a subject of intense consideration and debate. And while categorizing the hot dog is the perfect way to pass the time during an otherwise boring baseball game, there’s a similar conversation that we need to have about the classification of a breakfast staple. Folks, is cereal a soup?

On the surface, the mere suggestion is ridiculous. Of course cereal isn’t a soup, you reassure yourself, cereal isn’t hot. And indeed, you may have a point there. No less of an authority than defines soup as “a liquid food made by boiling or simmering meat, fish, or vegetables with various added ingredients.”

But aren’t cold, liquid-base dishes like gazpacho (unless you like hot-spacho) and ceviche themselves soups? There’s certainly a case that they are. And if meat and heat aren’t requirements—not to mention the fact that cereal grains like rice are acceptable in soup—what’s to say that a bowl of Cheerios can’t count as a cold soup?

Well, that depends on whether or not we’re counting milk as a broth. Any broth-based meal served in a bowl would seem to fit the criteria for soup, regardless of its temperature. But while drinking a glass of milk is totally normal, you’d get some weird looks if you decided to chug a pint of chicken stock. Does the act of placing any liquid into a bowl automatically merit its reclassification as a broth?

Don’t even get me started about oatmeal’s role in all of this. Cereal’s devious sibling reintroduces the warmth that strict-constructionist soup-ists find essential, but it loses some of the innate cereal-ness. That’s because making oatmeal is more than a two-step process. Regardless, to introduce it into the discussion requires us to flip the script and define what cereal is. Not today, Satan.

So who really knows if cereal is a soup. Exploring the issue has me feeling like I’m further away from understanding the subject than when I started. It’s one of those debates that will rage indefinitely without arriving at any sort of meaningful consensus. I’m on the verge of dumping Lucky Charms into a bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle in some sort of misguided attempt at compromise.

Perhaps what makes a bowl of breakfast cereal such a breakfast staple is that, much like the hot dog, it doesn’t fit neatly into the rigid categories we rely on to introduce reason and order into our chaotic world. All I do know is that referring to your next bowl of cereal as “the famous sweet breakfast soup we all know and love” is sure to spark a spirited discussion—or some coffee thrown in your face.