Would you bring leftovers to a potluck? Do you peel bananas from the nub instead of the stem? Do you consider the hotdog a sandwich? These are all actual food disputes that have found resolution in the fake courtroom of Judge John Hodgman. Indeed, as America's preeminent fake jurist, Judge John Hodgman has settled much culinary law on his podcast, Judge John Hodgman.
What, you ask, makes Judge John Hodgman uniquely qualified to dispense food-related justice on the Internet? For one, he has written about food and booze for Men's Journal magazine. For another, he was briefly a cheesemonger. At any rate, here are some of our favorite food-related rulings from the podcast.
Is a Hotdog a Sandwich?
It is not. Numerous rulings cover this topic, including a clarifying coda in the episode Pedantry of My Own. The law is settled. For starters, the hotdog bun is one solitary hinged piece of bread. Certainly there is no sandwiching of the frankfurter between two distinct pieces of bread. But ultimately, for Judge John Hodgman, the subtle but critical difference between a sandwich and a hotdog comes down to this: "One thing you would do with all sandwiches -- at least some of the time -- that you would never do with a hotdog is cut it in half. Cut it in half to share it, cut it in half to serve it." Sharing is caring. And the hotdog just don't play that way.
Is Chocolate Candy?
"Chocolate is not candy," Judge John Hodgman confirms in the episode, Planted Evidence. "Chocolate is its own thing. I do not have a sweet tooth -- I have an alcohol molar -- but I do enjoy chocolate because it is not just sweet, crystalized sugar, which is what candy is; chocolate is richer, savory-er, has more layers of flavor, and many many different varieties." And in a related judgment: If you give up chocolate for lent, must you deny yourself moles? "Yes, even moles."
Is a Grilled Cheese Still a Grilled Cheese if it Has Meat in It?
In a Swift Justice segment delivered Live from SF Sketchfest 2016, Judge John Hodgman rules that, "Yes, grilled cheese can have meat in it and still be a grilled cheese -- with say bacon. It doesn't become a different sandwich unless it's a tuna melt." Presumably, it would still be a grilled cheese sandwich even with disks of sliced hotdog thrown into the mix.
Can a Pizza Still Be a Pizza without Tomato Sauce?
Of course. In the episode The Cradle of Pizza Civilization, Judge John Hodgman rules: "There are many, many different kinds of white pizzas that don't have any tomato sauce on them at all, and there's no question that they are pizzas. They come from the same Italian-American pizza-parlour tradition." Regional differences often account for what we consider authentic, which allows for a Deep-Dish Pizza in Chicago, a Tomato Pie in Philly with the sauce above the cheese, or the signature white clam pizza of a pizzeria in Connecticut. Cased closed.
Is There a Significant Material Difference between a Taco and Tostada?
More to the point, if someone invites you to a so-called "taco dinner" but serves you tostadas instead, is this grounds for objection? Or are tacos and tostadas essentially interchangeable vehicles for delivering delicious Mexican food to the mouth? Judge John Hodgman rules in the episode, Too Many Cooks Spoil the Borth: "A tostada exists to make use of tortillas that are no longer fresh -- you fry it into a stiff platter. Tostadas are harder to eat. A taco, you just pick it up and shove it in your maw. A tostada, if you're gonna eat it with your hands, it's like eating a 45 record. It's gonna be messy. It's unwise to serve one to a guest." The differences, then, are real and significant. Certainly don't serve it to guests without also providing an enormous plastic bib.
Is Cooking an Art Form?
Judge John Hodgman tackles this question in the episode, Woodsy Bob Newhart. "I must stand up for cooking as an art form," says Judge Hodgman. "The fact that it is nourishing -- physically and culturally and mentally -- makes it one of the most beautiful art forms I think the culture has devised. It is a way that we share experience with each other and show generosity to each other." After a brief breakdown in the courtroom, order is restored, and the judge continues: "I'm just warning anyone who comes on my podcast and says that cooking is not an art form: Chef's have knives and they are unbalanced....so I'm just saying, somebody better be careful."