Category Archives: Food law

Just watch where you put that thing

This just in– turns out the Chicago PD will ticket just about anyone.   I guess driving a 27-foot fiberglass replica of a meat tube does not make one immune to the law…

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Tomato = Fruit?

To follow up on the previous is-a-burrito-actually-a-sandwich-debate, here we go with another legal matter (and yes, Mr. Food’s journey through law school has rubbed off on me a bit!).

In today’s installment: is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

On the vegetable side we have any kid who has ever refused to eat a tomato based solely on its associations with other-salad-foods-like-the-dreaded-spinach-leaf. Clearly it’s a VEGETABLE because normal little kids don’t want to eat it. That is, unless it is disguised as pizza sauce or ketchup (head’s up to brother J for this one!). It’s usually eaten as a part of a savory course, rarely does it appear in desserts, so vegetable all the way, right? Maybe.

Now, anyone who’s ever taken high school bio knows that technically the answer is FRUIT. I mean, those guys are filled with visible seeds, right! Biologically and botanically, that makes it a fruit. Culinarily, as well, one could argue that tomatoes are fruits. Some folks (Mr. Food, namely) like to sprinkle theirs with a bit of sugar or just eat them whole, a la apple/pear/peach, actions typically taken with fruits, not vegetables.

So, fruit or vegetable? Something fun to eat or something to be avoided (old beliefs that tomatoes were poisonous notwithstanding)? Does it actually matter to the day-to-day eaters of the world? Probably not, but the conclusion to this debate does have legal implications. The legal case brought about by the Tariff Act of 1883 was set to decide whether tomatoes should be classified as fruits (not taxed) or vegetables (taxed). The court found that, though tomatoes are still botanically a fruit, they are legally for taxable purposes, a vegetable! A vegetable! All the botanists are rolling in their graves and the stage is set for the is-a-peanut-a-nut-or-a-legume debate. But that, we are not ever going to get into (sorry, Dad).

In the end I accept the legal findings of the court a century ago but in my biologist’s heart I know that the tomato will always be a fruit to me. So there.

Burrito = Sandwich ???

Listen up people: a burrito, though it looks like a sandwich, sits in the hand like a sandwich, and sticks together like a sandwich, is not, i repeat, not a sandwich.

Now bear with me, I know this is confusing… just as I know this is old news for fellow foodish Bostonians who heard all about this last year. I can hear the collective do-we-need-to-hear-this-again already. But this all happened when I was but a pre-blogger, so late is better than never!

This was an important issue last November. Matters of mealtime vocabulary and sandwich self-identification were at stake. Sandwich experts were asked to weigh in with their opinions. Local fabulous chef, Chris Schlesinger, who conveniently had just opened a sandwich place in Cambridge, had this to say: a sandwich is European in origin and uses “two pieces of leavened bread” while a burrito is Mexican-specific, is normally served hot and rolled into an unleavened tortilla. The two cannot find common ground here, clearly.

But let’s see what food vocabulary guru Alan Davidson has to say in his Penguin Companion to Food… from page 829 under heading Sandwich he says “Sandwiches take so many forms in the modern world, including double- and triple-deckers, the open sandwiches typical of Scandinavia, … and legions of toasted sandwiches.” His tome (it weighs two pounds, I just checked) is notable for two things: there is no listing for Burrito but at least burrito is not mentioned under sandwiches. The mystery deepens.

I happen to think that a sandwich is anything that involves a bread product used to keep the fillings in one place. Under this gastronomic umbrella I include anything that might be found or easily eaten at a baseball game. That means the sausage/hot dog/bratwurst family is well represented as well as the burger and the cheese sandwich groups. And I’ll admit that under my definition, I’m not sold on the burrito is not a sandwich angle. But in the interest of respect for ethnic foods, I’ll let that lie.

I’ll end with a book suggestion for those who need more information on this hot topic and pictures of two of my favorite recent sandwiches (courtesey of Burgerville, Portland, OR, and Chez Dad, homeland of I smell food).

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