Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A Hot Dog Isn't Worth $7.00

Maybe two bucks, if it is all beef and served with all the fixings, but these high end sausages in artisan bread are not hot dogs. They're high end sausages in sourdough disguised as something that used to cost .75 cents and come with a gigantic, grease soaked paper sack of potatoes for an extra .50cents. Sometimes they'd throw in the drink if the place had a special. When hot dogs went to $1.50 I was sure the world was coming to an end. Little could I have known what was on the horizon.

The Guardian has a feature on the food of the American Midwest today: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/05/haute-dogs-fried-pickles-savoury-doughnuts-how-britain-fell-love-midwestern-food

I'm torn here, because yeah, we do hot dogs, and pies, and BBQ, but pretty soon everyone feels the need to, "re-educate" us on our established classics to the point where they no longer resemble anything familiar. I'm not upset with people in the UK doing this, I'm upset with some asshole in the American Midwest charging $7.00 for a goddamned hot dog.

I can't speak to the appeal of Reuben sandwiches (never had one, though I've made them) or fried ravioli (intriguing) but I can tell you that hot dogs are not a sophisticated food. Look, I'm not the sort of person that will tell you what to put on your food (though I'll know you're not a local if you slather it in ketchup) or how to enjoy it, but I will tell you that hot dogs are not supposed to cost as much as a proper meal at a sit-down diner. You may be eating it inside, but the hot dog is street food, and democratic street food at that-anyone can afford a decent, filling meal at a hot dog stand-or at least they could before assholes started selling $7.00 hot dogs. You step inside a Chicago hot dog stand, and it is as close to a classless society as you'll get (or used to be before assholes started serving $7.00 hot dogs). All kinds of people, from all walks of life, standing at a counter eating a goddamned cheap sausage in a steamed bun with that phosphorescent green relish and enough vegetables that you can *almost* say you've had a salad as well. Hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder-Chicagoans united against the dietary experts. We may not agree on much, but a hot dog is not posh, and there had better be a couple pieces of that hot-dog shaped bubble gum in the bottom of the bag for afterwards. I've been a vegetarian since 1983, but even I know the hot dog rules. And don't forget the sport peppers( http://www.marconi-foods.com/Sport_Peppers-details.aspx) or mother will make you go all the way back to get them. We ate a lot of hot dogs growing up, which saved us from my mother attempting cooking. If it weren't for cheese sandwiches and hot dogs my poor dad would have starved to death by 1959! He lived to a good old age because all those nitrates preserved him from the inside.

Food (even food you no longer eat) is emotional. So much of it is the experience and associations over the food itself. With that in mind, here are a few Midwestern delights the Guardian article missed:

The Runza-a pastry filled with meat and cabbage-runza.com

The Monte Cristo Sandwich-ham and cheese in eggy bread- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Cristo_sandwich

Cheese Frenchie Sandwich - a grilled cheese that has been battered and deep fried- http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cheese-frenchy-sandwiches

Green River Soda- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_River_(soft_drink)

Italian Beef Sandwiches- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_beef

Kolach pastry- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolach

The Pizza Bagel- I can't find a damn thing about this on the internet and it almost makes me cry because it was such a genius open-faced sandwich. Slice a bagel, spread it with pizza sauce, pile on warm corned beef (salt beef) and then top with cheese.  few minutes in the oven until the cheese melts, and that's essentially it. If I still ate meat (or solid food for that matter) this would be my choice for a "last meal." Oh man, that was a sandwich. I hope it hasn't disappeared from menus.

And on and on it goes with regional specialties.

You're probably getting the idea this isn't health food, and you'd be correct. (Most) people don't eat like this routinely. That's as it should be, and all the more reason not to screw with the established norms. When you're feeling nostalgic, and willing to subject your arteries to something challenging, you  want your cheddar fries to taste like they did in 1978. That isn't too much to ask, is it? What's next, specially aged barrels of Old Style? http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/447/1727/

Sigh. I know time marches ahead, and hot dogs cost seven bucks, but the older I get the more personally I take it.

And one last thing-frozen custard comes from Wisconsin. You can make it in Illinois, but then it is just custard based ice cream. Frozen custard= Wisconsin. And no weird flavours.


Roseclouds said...

My coworker goes to a scary gas station here in Savannah to get a hot dog and a drink for $1.50. There are still places selling them at the normal price...but I wouldn't risk my life going there!

Goody said...

Oh, the ones on the conveyer belt thing that goes round indefinitely-my husband has been known to eat those too!

There's probably enough preservative in them to kill any bacteria. Think of it as beef jerky in a tube ;)

Propagatrix said...

I miss Italian beef so badly. There is no California equivalent. Ditto fontinella cheese; one of my first Wisconsin stops is always Tenuta's in Kenosha.

Goody said...


Kenosha reminded me of the King of Clubs cheddar cheese spread in a crockery jar from Mars Cheese Castle. God, I miss the talking cow.

You DO get beautiful weather and good produce in California, so there's that.

Propagatrix said...

We went to the new Mars on our last trip to WI, two years ago. I got an "EAT CHEESE OR DIE" T-shirt.

California has much to recommend it, including a year-round growing season. I don't think I could stand the Midwestern winters anymore, but I do miss many things about the ancestral homeland.