This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
When I was in high school, I read Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle about the meat-packing industry. I stopped eating meat for about a month. More than once I’ve heard someone say that if I knew what went into hot dogs (and sausages), I would not want to eat them. As such, I’ve avoided learning. I don’t want to know, and I don’t want to give up eating them.
Before prices got outrageous, my favorite movie-going snack was hot dogs. The price theatres charge for a single hot dog these days is damn near the same you’d pay for a pack of 6 or 8 at the grocery store. So, I either watch a movie snackless (that rarely happens), or I smuggle in my own snacks. It can be something light, like Snackfood popcorn or carrot sticks, but I’ve been shameless enough several times to smuggle in a whole cheesesteak. As recently as this week, I smuggled in spicy tuna rolls to watch Batman v Superman.
If I’m really hungry and didn’t get a chance to grab something before arriving at the theater, I’ll get something at the concession stand. When I was a kid, the options were popcorn, hot dogs and candy. Not that I got any because my father always made sure we ate before, so we’d be too full to ask for anything. Today’s kids are lucky. Depending on the theater, you can get fried dough, chicken wings, pizza, chicken tenders, fries, pretzels, ice cream, corn dog nuggets and other sorts of foods, all ridiculously priced. When a guy asks me out to the movies on a date, I get upset not because I think it’s “too cheap” of a date, but because it’s unoriginal and you can’t get to know someone by sitting side-by-side in the dark. On the flip side, you can get a sense of their interests and sense of humor by movie selection.
Getting a hot dog at the movies used to be an absolute must. I made sure to arrive early to secure a great center seat towards the back and to allow enough time to wait in the concession stand line to get a hot dog. My cousins knew this about me when we had our family movie outings. I eat hot dogs at the theater or at barbecues the same way: with ketchup and relish and nestled in a bun. Don’t you dare suggest mustard! I was beyond excited the first time I had a foot long hot dog at a concert at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
At home I ate hot dogs plain, no condiments, no bun.
Let me explain.
The best way to prepare hot dogs was to fry them in a pan until the skin was charred black or bake them in the toaster over. If I fried them—always two, sometimes three, never one—I cut small grooves into them so that the dogs curled as they cooked. I cut them into small pieces and placed them on foil if I baked them in the toaster over. I baked them until they changed color and shrank ever so slightly. Never ever have I boiled a hot dog. If a boiled hot dog is my only option I will eat it, but that’s pure greed. It’s definitely not my first choice.
In my six years of living in New York, only once have I purchased a street hot dog that has been soaking in who-knows-how-many-days-old water. I was a night grad school student heading to class. I was dizzy from hunger and would not have a chance to stop anywhere else. Even dipping into Wendy’s would make me late. So I stopped at the cart up the street from my school and purchased one. I paused before taking my first bite. The “skin” holding the meat together had begun to unravel at one end. I flipped the hot dog to take a bite out of the other end. When there was one bite left, I threw it in the trash.
On Saturday mornings when my mother made eggs with cheese for breakfast, she also made fried hot dogs. They’d be served on the side or she’d chop them into pieces and fry them with the eggs. When she did that, I’d pick out the hot dogs and save to eat last. I tried to scrape off any eggs sticking to them so I could enjoy the pure taste of the hot dog without interference. You’d think that because I also loved fried eggs and cheese, that I would enjoy all three together. Nope. I wanted each to be their own separate experience.
I’m not sure why I love the taste of hot dogs. I suspect it has to do with the salty taste, but I also enjoy the salty sweetness of corn dogs. I don’t accept that clash of tastes with any other food. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve spent the past few years cleaning up my diet. I consume more fruits and vegetables and foods I’d never heard of before, like quinoa and kale. During this clean-up of my diet, I stopped buying hot dogs. I learned that I should limit my intake of processed meats. Hot dogs and bologna had to go. I developed a taste for smoked salmon, and on occasion I’ll buy sausage to cook with breakfast on the weekends or with pasta.
I miss eating hot dogs on a regular basis, but then I remember that summer and numerous barbecues aren’t too far away.