One morning several years ago, an extremely simple but highly memorable “Arlo & Janis” cartoon by Jimmy Johnson found its way to our breakfast table and thereafter assumed permanent lodging in our family’s lexicon of private jokes.
In the course of the cartoon frames, Janis scrounged through her cupboards for meal ideas before reluctantly settling on a menu of hot dogs–maybe accompanied by canned tomato soup.
But from the look on the faces of her son and husband when she set the food on the table, you would have thought she was serving caviar, champagne and cheesecake.
“Oh boy! Hot dogs again!” enthused Arlo with a huge smile, much to Janis’ chagrin.
So it goes with hot dogs. Remember that old car commercial, “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?” Hot dogs are a top 10 “All-American” food, which is not to say they are exactly the healthiest choice.
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council euphemistically reveals that hot dogs are made from “specially selected meat trimmings,” but no one wants to think very hard about a hot dog’s origin, composition or overall nutritional ranking.
For better or worse, hot dogs are an apparent staple of the American diet. The above-referenced organization says U.S. consumption runs at an average of 60 hot dogs annually per American, with 155 million hot dogs eaten on July 4 alone.
More than 60 of that July 4 count is downed by one man–Joey Chestnut, the reigning U.S. champion since 2007 in the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. His personal record: 69 hot dogs (don’t forget the buns!) in one sitting.
Last July, he chowed 61 hot dogs, but that was plenty to top the second-place finisher (poor guy only ate 56). Plus, Chestnut had other things on his mind that day, like proposing to his longtime girlfriend (also a competitive eater) right before the contest began.
She said yes, by the way–and why not, when the Money issue of ESPN magazine noted that Chestnut’s competitive eating skills helped him earn a 2012 income of $161,400. Not bad–if you like eating hot dogs.
Which, apparently, many people do. My husband is one of the certified hot dog fans. Like the cartoon character Janis, I always feel guilty when resorting to a “meal” centered on hot dogs (other than during the summer grilling season).
But just last weekend I produced a boiled hot dog for him–accompanied with a bowl of homemade vegetable soup, in an attempt to balance out the preservatives–and he seemed thrilled.
Me? Not so much. I’ll eat a hot dog when I have to, and I think eating one is mandatory when attending a Minnesota Twins game, but whether it’s dressed up as a Kramarczuk’s sausage or decked out in a cornbread coating at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, it’s still not my ideal bite.
Beyond baseball, hot dogs are ubiquitous at concession stands, whether they be for hockey, swimming, football, basketball or at the beach. They’re cheap, easy to heat and fit ever-so-neatly in those tasty but equally unhealthy white buns that sell for 99 cents–in packages of eight. (So why do hot dogs typically come in packages of 10? Hold that thought!)