15 June 2010

concerning the hot dog

On the road, I am the great justifier of junk food.  Most of us are:  this is why gas stations do not have salad bars and why the shrink-wrapped chicken salad sandwiches stay in the refrigerated case while Ding Dongs, Bugles, cheesy popcorn {it stains your car seats, you know, and it’s so pervasive—months later, you find orange dust in the trunk}, and Skittles must be re-stocked every 3 hours.

I am a particular justifier of the gas station hot dog.  To me, a hot dog is the ultimate road food: it’s self-contained, can be eaten quickly, and it doesn’t cost much.

Gas station hot dogs are usually about $1.00, the perfect price point for a cheap-o-focused person like me.  But let’s face it, when you think about what goes into a hot dog, $1.00 is an exorbitant price.

I know what’s in hot dogs.  Mr. Desi, my seventh grade science teacher, took it upon himself to explain hot dogs in exquisite detail to my class, which was partly made up of relatives and descendants of pig farmers.  And even if someone doesn’t have swine production in their family history, every Iowa kid can tell the difference between the smell of a hog confinement and the smell of say, just cows.

{This skill does not translate well to big city life, sadly.}

I don’t know why Mr. Desi chose to explain hot dogs to us—perhaps we were overly distracted one day by the hot lunch main dish, a foot-long hot dog.  Or maybe he was trying to toughen our stomachs for pig dissection in ninth grade.

Snouts, intestines, organs, anything else that fell in the vat while mushing up the hot dog mix:  I suggest we start thinking of hot dogs as America’s answer to haggis.  Or to paté.  Or to anything served in a British pub.

People in other countries eat equally questionable food, so America should put hot dogs in their proper cultural context.  And we should not be ashamed to eat them, wherever we may find them.  In gas stations.  At a street vendor on Broadway in NYC.  At Wrigley Field.  At a Fourth of July cook out.

{I’m starting to feel overly-patriotic, as if I should be humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” while writing this manifesto on the very American-ness of the hot dog.  I’m going to stop before I start reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.}

I do my part in honoring America, nostalgia, the food industry, and the classic road trip.  Like I said, I eat a lot of gas station hot dogs, and I'm proud of it.

One nation, under God, indivisible...


  1. At least I know I'm not the only one who can think about what goes into hot dogs and think "I would really like to have a hot dog right now." :)

  2. Thanks for the tribute to America's favorite wiener! :-) I think I might have to run to Quicktrip for a hot dog lunch now.

  3. I LOVE HOTDOGs TOO. That is why we work as friends. You were the person who would test the nearby hot dog establishments near my 1st and 2nd Chicago apartments. And I am grateful.

  4. I remember the time when I was surprised to find out that you liked hot dogs so much. It didn't seem to fit in with my image of you. I'm glad to know you well know and know that dogs and really the entire sausage family are totally "you!"



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