Soup, salads, sandwiches; the foundational trifecta on which all human civilization is built on. We can convince ourselves that our culinary expeditions as a species are diverse and varied, but the truth is that (almost) every single dish we think is new and innovative, is actually just a derivative of one of these three. So, for your convenience, I have compiled the Food Network’s top five recipes and classified them - without further ado, here are five dishes you all know and love, stripped down to their basics and categorized as either a soup, salad, or sandwich.
Chocolate lava cake
My immediate, visceral response was to label this as a soup and move on. I mean, it’s filled with a hot liquid and that was all the convincing I needed. The more I pondered on the issue, however, the more my opinion altered. I now stand firmly by my opinion that this is a salad. According to the internet, where nobody ever lies, a salad is “a mixture of raw or cooked vegetables”. Now what is a vegetable? A plant. And what is chocolate made of? That’s right, cocoa beans, a plant by all definitions. All the other ingredients that go into the cake are essentially negligible; the cocoa beans are the star of the show and therefore the cake is a salad. The “lava” portion is obviously the salad dressing.
Sandwich. This one is a no-brainer. You see, it’s all about the layers; sandwiches can have any assortment of strange and experimental fillings, but as long as the fundamentals remain unchanged - two pieces of bread with a third substance in between them - nobody can refute that it is a sandwich. Lasagna is no different. Replace the bread with pasta sheets and the filling with tomato sauce and cheese, and you have yourself a dish indistinguishable from a traditional sandwich. I think it’s time for society to break free of the sandwich binary and expand our perception of what can be considered a sandwich.
Hummus is a salad too. This one is not as controversial as the lava cake; chickpeas are the primary ingredient, so hummus already fits into what is basically the only criteria to being a salad, which is that the dish should consist of vegetables. The other ingredients typically involved in making hummus are olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and seasonings, which sounds suspiciously similar to an ingredient list for salad dressing.
Soup. I mean, it definitely does depend on just how saucy you choose to make the dish. If the pasta to sauce ratio is too high, this may transcend into the realm of salads, but we can all agree that saucy pasta is better, and therefore that was how I chose to interpret this dish. This isn’t limited to rigatoni bolognese; I think any type of pasta with any type of sauce can be classified as a soup given that the aforementioned ratio is all in order. Sure, you eat soup with a spoon and eat pasta with a fork, but some soups these days are unimaginably laden with all sorts of extra ingredients. Have you ever had minestrone soup? They put little tiny macaronis in there, so I feel the decision to call this dish a soup is justified. Besides, ramen and noodle soups are referred to as soups, and there is fundamentally no difference between noodles and pasta.
This one is on the soup-salad cusp for sure. Judging by the image of this vegan chili on the Food Network’s website, it is very heavy on the vegetables, which would lead one to label it as a salad. However, the impossibly cheerful woman eating it is holding a spoon, and that is a characteristic very specific to soups. I don’t think a conclusion can be drawn based on reasoning alone; you kind of just have to listen to your gut intuition to make a decision on this one. My confusion was exacerbated when I read that Food Network recommends serving this with nachos. I thought to myself, “hey, nachos are pretty similar to croutons, which are a common feature of salads”, but then the realization dawned on me that croutons also make frequent appearances in soup. So yeah, I can’t help you on this one.