Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hot Dogs and the Fourth of July


Perhaps there is nothing more American than the idea of eating hot dogs on the Fourth of July, but every hot dog joint I know of is closed today. I guess I'll have to revert to home made or abstain. All things considered I prefer abstinence.

An old Andy Griffith Show comes to mind: The Pickle Contest. In this classic episode Aunt Bea is determined to win the Mayberry Pickle Contest even though she makes the worst pickles ever. They are so bad that Barney and Andy go to enormous lengths to keep her from entering her "Kerosene Cucumbers" (as Barney calls the pickles behind Aunt Bea's back) into the contest. Andy makes a very wise observation about home made pickles and says he can't figure out why people go to all the trouble making pickles when store-bought pickles taste better. Home made doesn't necessarily mean better.

And so it is with hot dogs. You can make a good West Virginia hot dog at home, but it is extremely time consuming. And since the National Hot Dog Council's Hot Dog Etiquette guide says that you should finish a hot dog in five bites or less, it's hardly worthwhile to spend hours making chili and slaw just to wolf down your creation in thirty seconds.

It's also expensive to make your own: Unless you are feeding a small army the economics of buying eight buns, ten weenies, a pound of ground beef and a head of cabbage just don't make sense. A premium hot dog at a good HDJ costs about $1.50. To buy the raw materials in the minimum packaged amounts costs a good $6-7 not counting the incidentals you should have on hand (mustard, mayo, spices, etc.).

Of course there is always the possibility of reverting to the hot dogs of my childhood. There is something charming about roasting a weenie on a stick over an open fire and slapping the charred and whistling little frank onto a bun straight out of the Heiner's bag and chomping into it while it is still sizzling. No chili. No slaw. No mustard or onions. Maybe some ketchup for nostalgia's sake but otherwise plain. If the festivities today involve an open fire I just just might indulge.

1 comment:

Wabi-Sabi said...

How can you post about hot dogs on the 4th of July and not include a reference to the Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest!?

It's the highlight of National Hot Dog month. Everyone should enjoy 30 or 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes on Independence Day. It's an American tradition.