Wine From Outer Space

Wine From Outer Space is intoxicating, unearthly and surprising. It's also where I write about whatever I choose, and that's nice.

14 April 2009

Hog Heaven

I've neglected posting for far too long, so to make up for it, I give you....HOT DOGS!!

Hot dogs, without argument, are an ubiquitous American food. I always assumed the hot dog was a descendent of the Wiener Schnitzel, but a quick wiki search revealed that the Wiener Schniztel is not a sausage but rather a thin, crumb-coated veal cutlet that is fried. Here's to wiki-learning!

From whence, then, does the hot dog derive? Wiki reveals that the Wienerwurst or Vienna sausage, of Vienna, was born in the 15th century, and "given to the people on the event of imperial coronations, starting with the coronation of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor as King".

However, as is often the the case in claims to fame, Wiki reports that "the hot dog has also been attributed to Johann Georg Lahner, a 18th/19th century butcher from the Bavarian city of Coburg who is said to have invented the 'dachshund' or 'little-dog' sausage and brought it from Frankfurt to Vienna."

Sold at baseball games and from carts on the streets of cities, hot dogs constitute a major cornerstone in American fare. As a kid I would eat them naked--that is, without a bun--and slathered in mustard and ketchup.

Hot dog purists will argue that ketcup (or catsup) is anatema to the hot dog; mustard (yellow mustard only, please) is the only acceptable accompaniment. Chicago holds quite a few food traditions as part of its diverse heritage, and the hot dog is no exception. Superdawg on Milwaukee is an iconic bit of Chicago--and American--history.

Established in 1948, Superdawg has been cranking out traditional Chicago dogs for over 50 years: hot dog, mustard, onions, hyper-green relish, pickled tomato, pickle, sport peppers and celery salt, all on a poppy seed bun. That's the Chicago way, and obviously the "mustard only" purists are mortified when they see a salad bar atop their beloved dog.

Beyond mustard, the only topping I usually seek out is sauerkraut, and finding the right kind of kraut can be a culinary odyssey in itself. First of all, the "major" canned/jarred brands such as Hunt's or Libby's simply won't do. They are not nearly pungent enough. I remember using Frank's brand with some success, and now Gundelsheim is my kraut of choice. And it must be plain kraut; Bavarian style, which is peppered with caraway seeds, is simply unacceptable.

Hideous aberrations exist in the hot dog world, which is not surprising given that most of us don't think too deeply about just how a hot dog is made, with good reason. Nevertheless, Frank-n-stuff hot dogs were a favored treat of mine when I was around 10 or so years old. The central core of the hot dog was hollowed out and replaced with "chili" or "cheese".

Spaghetti-Os with franks was a somewhat puzzling addition to the Chef Boyardee line...Spaghetti-Os with meatballs at least tried to sell the illusion of spaghetti and meatballs. Who eats spaghetti with cut up hot dogs? Maybe they were trying to "ineternationalize" the hum-drum meal of beans and weiners, but in the end the Spaghetti-Os with Franks was simply disgusting (and given that we're talking about Spaghetti-Os, that's saying something).

My college fraternity had their own kitchen and meal plan, and one of the regular freezer items was something called a Bagel Wurst. This was some sort of smoked hot dog or sausage, infused with "cheese," and then cocooned inside a soft and seemingly rye-like dough...presumably this was the "bagel" portion of the sobriquet. I usually ate it hung over, and in silence, serving a Sunday penance drenched in mustard.

Nothing, however, compares to the wonderment of a grilled hot dog. I could eat these plain, with no topping, on the bun. And I could eat ten of them. Preparation is probably the most important part of what makes or breaks a hot dog. "Lips and assholes" is how a friend of mine referred to hot dogs, rightly noting that the dog's constituent materials were really not choice cuts.

Symmetry is also important--I can't eat a hot dog whose ends overlap the bun, it's probably Freudian and I simply can't. Appearance goes a long way as well. Frankfurters tend to be "tied off" at the ends, what one friend calls "balloon knots." This makes the prospect of eating it impossible. Hot dogs must have innies, not outies.

Perhaps nothing has made the hot dog as famous as the hot dog eating contests on Coney Island, sponsored by Nathan's Famous. Held every July 4, this tradition is approaching its centennial. A more American contest--one of unrepentant (indeed, celebratory) gluttony--I cannot conceive. Somehow, America's fattest champions of competetive eating are not lately up to the challenge, however.

Normal-proportioned Japanese citizens have been taking the top prize in recent years, their lack of chins and jowls marking a somewhat puzzling and incongruous can they out-eat the morbidly fat Americans? They can see their feet and walk without panting!

Summer approaches, and so too the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest. Perhaps out there is a true American hero, a real red-blooded son or daughter of liberty, who is up to the challenge and is brave enough to claim the hot dog eating honor for 2009. Pick up some clothes with elastic waistbands, and get training. FOR FREEDOM!!


  • At 9:22 PM, Blogger CJP said…

    You should change this blog to Frankfurters from Outerspace, and write about nothing else. This is where your true skill reins supreme, unchallenged and all reaching like some vienna sausage Corn King.


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