My son Andrew is pursuing a career in the psychology of marketing. Somebody already in that position within the Burger King corporation has come up with the genius idea...to suddenly start selling hot dogs. To me, this is a strange (stupid) and unnecessary change (step in the wrong direction), because the hot dog has always played second fiddle to the hamburger. That's why today's article is dedicated to this red-headed step-child of fast-food.
I find it funny that with all the resources Burger King has at its disposal, it will soon find out that the public does not have enough hot dog affection, to sustain a long term financial upswing. The timing of BK's expected path to supremacy is also odd because they are bucking a strong trend towards health-conscious foods. At a time when apple slices are replacing french fries and nutritional transparency is "king," BK is slapping the burgeoning less sugar, less sodium, less fat, gluten-free, vegan-aware customer base with the grand daddy of retro mystery meat...the lowly frankfurter. To make matters worse, to keep the ala carte price around two bucks, they have turned their back on the "kings" of the hot dog world and partnered with a bottom of the dung heap purveyor, Oscar Mayer.
|BEYOND THE NOVELTY OF SEEING THE OSCAR MAYER HOT DOG CAR DRIVE THROUGH YOUR TOWN OR GETTING THE HOT WHEELS VERSION FOR YOUR KID, A WISE CONSUMER SHOULD NEVER STOOP TO THE LOWEST OF THE LOW.|
Burger King is forgetting that franks are overwhelmingly the inferior choice, next to a hamburger. To accentuate their poor judgment, go to YOUTUBE and see which wholesome celebrity these giants of the burger universe have chosen to host their hot dog training video. If you guessed, Snoop Dogg, you're RIGHT!
The best gauge to test my theory would be at a cookout where only hot dogs and hamburgers are offered, I stake my reputation that barbecued burgers will be eaten first.
Trust me, I like hot dogs and have eaten a gazillion of them. But I've eaten fifty gazillion burgers. Plus, I'd NEVER, EVER, NEVER, EVER be tempted to have one at Burger King. I think Andrew would agree.
Unlike Andrew, I was eating "red hots" at a young age. My earliest recollection was mom boiling a couple and serving them with yellow mustard. It would be quite sometime before I had them any other way.
I remember at the movie theater candy counter, how fascinated I was as hot dogs, impaled on metal tines, spun in a cooker. Mom implied that there was something taboo about them and never let me have one. So I stuck with Raisinets and popcorn. Despite those rotating hot dogs looking so enticing, mom's word was good enough for me, to this day, I've never had one.
|I COULDN'T FIND AN INTERNET PHOTO OF THE EXACT ROTATING HOT DOG CONTRAPTION THAT MESMERIZED ME IN MY YOUTH...BUT THIS FERRIS WHEEL TYPE IS SIMILAR.|
Mom also never let me have the pleasure of a dirty water hot dog, (usually a Sabrett).
Going to Manhattan with my family was reserved for special occasions. So eating a hot dog in the street was understandably out of the question. But in our neighborhood, on Canarsie Pier, (after the official snack bar permanently closed), an old man, (aka, Eli's by the Sea), vended Sabrett hot dogs. In that forum, my seven year-old brain realized that a plain old frank could be garnished. The aroma of sauerkraut and stewed onions had a Svengali hold on me. I watched the happy customers chomp away but mom convinced me that Eli's product was somehow tainted.
By the time I was attending New York Mets games (1963), I discovered that hot dogs (as well as the bun) were steamed and came with spicy brown mustard, (Gulden's). While this was way better than mom's bland hot dogs, it did not cause an epicurean renaissance for me.
In the fall of 1963, after a full day as a third grader, I entered into Hebrew school. My folks gave me chump change for eats to tide me over till dinner. Conveniently located in front of the synagogue, a gentleman (Ruby) sold homemade *knishes from a depression-era pushcart, (see my February 16, 2009 blog, "YOUR MOTHER RIDES SHOTGUN ON RUBY'S KNISH WAGON)."
*A knish, (KEH-nish or k'nish), is a side-dish in kosher delicatessens or an eat-on-the-run fast food. They are baked or fried and usually packed with softened potato.
My neighborhood (Canarsie) had three kosher-style delis in walking distance, (plus three more, along the border of East Flatbush, on Ralph Avenue). With all these places clambering for business, you'd think they would make sure that the humble hot dog was as good as it possibly could be. But the deli nearest to my Hebrew school (King Arthur's) had tasteless sauerkraut. So I turned my back on the frankfurter and wound up eating Ruby's knishes and using the extra cash for baseball cards.
By the time I was fourteen, (1969), my friends and I were going to Mets games via subway, (unchaperoned by an adult) . We had little money, so we savored the one hot dog we'd get during the game.
One friend (SLW) revolutionized our ballgame dining experience by discovering that the Shea Stadium subway stop (Willets Point), had a concession stand with a grilled hamburgers and...sweet ambrosia for the soul...fried onions. Once again, burgers prevailed.
In 1970, my roly-poly Uncle George took me to a lunch truck perfectly located along the wall of a cemetery, on Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens. The gimmick there was one, two or three dirty water hot dogs, on a special, poppy seed roll. I knew Babe Ruth was famous for eating five hot dogs during a game, so as a misguided fifteen year-old, I figured I could handle what my uncle got..."The Triple-Header."
|MAYBE NOT EVERY GAME, BUT I BELIEVE THE GREAT BAMBINO HAD PLENTY OF FIVE HOT DOG DAYS.|
I followed my uncle and had "the works," (sauerkraut, stewed onions, brown mustard and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper). My first two bites were orgasmic. Despite washing the whole kit and caboodle down with gulps of Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda, I quickly slowed down. Halfway through, as the stability of the sandwich disintegrated, I thought it wise to just eat the exposed hot dog. That's when I learned that Sabrett franks, by itself, were tasteless. I trashed the entrails of the Triple-Header and within twenty minutes had severe agita, (suddenly it made sense why the truck was so close to a graveyard).
Maybe a psychologist should recommend to food trucks, to market bowls of just sauerkraut, stewed onions and Gulden's.
In 1974, I was a waiter in a bingo hall, (the full story, "I'LL SHOOT RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES," was blogged February 14, 2011). Our best customer was Hortie, a sloppy, fat lady with a goiter. She liked to have a knish with a hot dog embedded in the potato, (sliced in six sections) and covered with melted cheese. It was put on the menu placard as "HORTIE'S FAVORITE," $1.65. But she wanted it to have a more glamorous name.
At the snack bar counter while waiting for our orders, I got in an argument (over naming Hortie's Favorite), with a fellow waiter, (Curt). The name he suggested was a "cheese-nish-dog." I called his idea, unimaginative and asinine. When I came up with a, "KFC," (knish, frankfurter and cheese). Curt grabbed the hot dog out of the bun I was going to serve. He held by the end, waved it around and said, "You're a dick just like this. If we call it KFC, people will think its chicken." I was so skeeved,. Hot dogs lose again...it would be many years until I ate another one.
During my hot dog hiatus, I lived to Las Vegas, (1979-1984). On Decatur Boulevard, there was Der Weinerschnitzel restaurant, who specialized in hot dogs. Before I realized that it was a successful fast-food chain, I used to tell people, "Hot dogs! That'll never last."
|KNOWN FOR ITS A-FRAME BUILDINGS, DER WEINERSCHNITZEL WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1961. TODAY, THE HOME OF THE "WORLD'S MOST WANTED WEINER," IS THE LARGEST HOT DOG CHAIN ON THE PLANET. IT BOASTS 358 LOCATIONS, ALL IN THE WESTERN USA.|
Eventually, I went back to franks. They helped fill an empty void but hot dogs were merely edible, I never loved them.
In 1984, I returned to New Jersey and was hired as a craps dealer at the Atlantis Casino. They weren't known for lavishing their employees with food, (or anything else). In support of that notion, a friend dragged me through the food line one night to show me that the Soup of the Day was, cream of hot dog. Now thirty-plus years later, the image of cut-up franks bobbing up and down in a sea of milkiness, causes a rumbly in my tumbly.
In 2000, I became aware that every 4th of July, a Hot Dog Eating Contest is held at the original Nathan's, (Coney Island section of Brooklyn). Nathan's has other locations but the urban legend from my youth was...only the original was good. So, because the neighborhood was so seedy, I didn't have a Nathan's hot dog since I was a kid.
|NATHAN'S IS SO FAMOUS FOR HOT DOGS THAT MANY AREAS AROUND THE COUNTRY NICKNAME THEIR FRANKFURTERS, "A CONEY ISLAND."|
The contest has since gone Hollywood. Last July, 3000+ spectators watched competitors, like eight-consecutive-year winner Joey Chestnut, as over 1.1 million viewers saw it on ESPN.
|IN 2013, JOSEPH "JAWS" CHESTNUT (32) SET THE HOT DOG EATING RECORD WITH 69, IN TEN MINUTES. I WONDER IF THERE'S A PEPTO-BISMOL CHUGGING CONTEST TOO?|
I watched the revolting carnage on TV once. Simply put, the contest should ruin hot dogs for the sane portion of our population.
Unfortunately as I got older, I gained weight. To combat my ever-expanding waistline, I went on the Atkins Diet. Micro-waved hot dogs became a quick and easy "go to food." But it was like I had gone full circle. I was reminded of my mom's boiled franks because even though I was slathering on Guldens and ensconcing my meals in mounds of sauerkraut...the whole shebang was too plain without bread. Yet again, I swayed away from hot dogs.
Currently, my friend GERM (of North Jersey) ls a connoisseur of fine food.
|GERM MUST BE A FOODIE BECAUSE WHEN HE WAS IN PERU (above), HE ATE A GUINEA PIG.|
GERM might have an appreciation for the exotic but he also loves American classics, like hot dogs. To prove his attachment, he has gone on a five-year, forty-seven frankfurter specialty restaurant crusade. He has yet to commit to a winner. Along the way, he once teased me about my indifference to hot dogs by referring to the old, "PATTY DUKE SHOW."
|PATTY DUKE STARRED IN A DUAL-ROLE AS IDENTICAL TWIN COUSINS. THE SHOW LASTED THREE SEASONS, (104 EPISODES, 1962-1966). ITS POPULARITY CAME AT A TIME WHEN RIDICULOUS SIT-COMS LIKE, "MY FAVORITE MARTIAN" AND "GILLIGANS ISLAND" RULED THE AIR WAVES.|
GERM (in terms of hot dogs appreciation) likened himself to Patty (left) a regular, goofy high school kid and referred to me as Cathy (right) the sophisticated cousin. I remember how awful he sounded when sang a few lines of the "PATTY DUKE" theme song:
"While Cathy (me) adores the minuet, the Ballet Russes and crepes Suzette...
Our Patty (him) loves to rock and roll, a hot dog makes her lose control."
Last month, while GERM continued his search for the Holy Grail of hot dogs, I needed hernia surgery, (see my February 8, 2016 blog, "PLEASE, DON'T PUT IN A ZIPPER.)" My ordeal took me to Rockville Maryland.
On the way down, Sue and I stopped for lunch at the Maryland House Travel Plaza, (I-95, mile marker 82, near Aberdeen).
|THE MARYLAND HOUSE RE-OPENED ON JANUARY 16, 2014 AFTER A $30M REMODELING JOB. NOW, THIS CORNUCOPIA OF REST STOPS, IS HOME TO TEN FOOD OUTLETS, IN A COMFORTABLE, CLEAN AND CONTEMPORARY SETTING.|
Funny, with so many choices, I had difficulty deciding what to have. I knew we were meeting my boyhood friend HJ and his wife for dinner that night, so I wanted to eat light. It took a long time, but I picked the last thing I ever would have expected...a Nathan's hot dog. I hate to admit it but...that hot dog almost made me lose control. It together with sauerkraut, Gulden's mustard and a terrific bun was tasty, crunchy and fantastic, (the french fries were great too).
I wonder where GERM ranks Nathan's?
The next day, I pictured Nathans' grill roasting all those hot dogs as I was wheeled into surgery. The pleasant memory of eating that hot dog was the last thing I thought about before the anesthesia took effect.
Please note, at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, it might be a long time till I have another because I'm on a new and improved mission to lose weight...and we know Nathan's recipe would be lacking without the bun.
Now that my son Andrew has been accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, those lofty credentials will help get into a top-notch grad school. And when the finished product is ready for the job market, I bet you a trip to good old reliable Nathan's that Andrew comes up with something far superior than Burger King selling friggin' Oscar Mayer weenies.