Thursday, April 26, 2018

No One Says That

Yes, that relish is full of bright green food colouring but if you're worried about carcinogens in the relish you probably don't want to know what's in the hot dog.

Eventually, the boys tired of delicatessen cold cuts and wanted an "Authentic" Chicago hot dog experience. They'd already had an over-priced one at the ballpark (Though still less expensive than a place around here that has the nerve to charge something like nine bucks) which Danny doused in ketchup just to be contrarian. Chicagoans don't put ketchup on their hot dogs and you'll get a bit of teasing if you do. Still, there's nothing like a proper hot dog stand to really get the immersive experience, so I took them to Poochies in Skokie.

I hadn't been in Poochies since the late 70's because my dad had a falling out with the owner. Dad was a food distributor, so I'm pretty certain it was about money, but I'm also certain he was probably being a jerk. It was a shame because they'd been friends-he was at my sister's wedding for god's sake, but knowing my dad, it was probably made all the worse by his character flaws, i.e. being a jerk. After that we didn't go to Poochies, and had to make due with Fluky's or Woolfy's which really weren't the same.

One of the best memories I have from going with the old man to make deliveries was getting to Poochies because I'd leave with a giant handful of hot dog shaped bubble gum. Dad's customers were always nice to me because they knew how bat-shit crazy my parents were. I'd have to chew the gum before getting home or my mother would have killed me for eating sugar, so I'd pop three or four of those into my mouth at a time and chew like mad to extract as much sugar as possible before getting back. I'd have to keep my mouth closed until the dye faded or it would give it away. I'm not kidding about the sugar policing-she was the diabetic, but that didn't stop her forcing saccharine tablets on the rest of us.

Like many of the still operating businesses from my childhood, Poochies had a bit of a makeover. Instead of the cramped space where you had to stand at a counter in the window to eat, they now have ample space to sit down. Mostly, I remember standing in the hallway by the back waiting for Dad to get paid, and marvelling at the canisters that went into the soda machines. To my mind, you don't go to a hot dog stand to lounge about watching TV as you eat. It is efficient food that you should eat (preferably standing up) and then get the hell out. If you want to linger over a meal, go have a steak dinner somewhere. Clearly, I haven't spent much time in hot dog stands having been a vegetarian since 1983, but there's a way things ought to be done. That's why they're called traditions. ,The boys lingered over their lunch, the heathens.

I can't know for certain when it started, and I suspect it was a marketing gimmick by the hot dog manufacturer but somewhere along the way the phrase, "Drag it through the garden" came into being. A Chicago hot dog has onions, relish, sport (hot) peppers, tomatoes, mustard, celery salt (yeah, I don't know why either) and a pickle. A dog with everything has been "dragged through the garden" but really it hasn't because no one ever said that, at least not before the Internet. I lived in Chicago for 24 years and I never, ever heard anyone say, "Drag it through the garden". The phrase makes me cringe. My mistake was letting Danny know just how much it irritates me.

The only thing worse than hearing, "Drag it through the garden" from some dipshit that probably spent half a day in Chicago before going on Yelp to write an authoritative guide to the culinary history of hot dogs in Chicago, is someone, upon hearing I'm from Chicago asking me about gangsters. You can go anywhere in the world and someone trying out their English on a tourist will respond, "Al Capone, bang bang!" when they hear you are from Chicago. Yeah, bang bang, drag it through the garden. I have a teenage son. A teenage son with a phone and a generous text and data plan who kept texting me from the back seat of the car, "Drag it through the garden." and "Bang bang, Al Capone" for the entire drive between Omaha and Chicago. He won't think it's so funny when I throw him out of the house on his 18th Birthday.

If you're wondering why so many of these essays about Chicago feature food it is because I travelled with my husband and son. About twenty minutes prior to the hot dog, Mr. ETB had stopped at a Korean takeaway on the other side of Skokie for "a snack." That snack followed a trip to Touhy Ave. in Lincolnwood for bagels. It was as much a culinary tour of the city as anything else. And that's reasonable-Chicago(land) is a great place to eat interesting things. One evening I took them for BBQ chicken at a place in Niles (Booby's) that's been there since I was a child (and still packing in a crowd even on a weeknight). Another night we drove to Wheeling to eat at a tiny pizzeria (Joe's) we used to go to after work because it was cheap, and open late. These places have survived decades because they make exceptional food, I just didn't think the boys would want to try everything in the space of a week. Never underestimate the amount of food a teenager can consume! My one extravagance was a root beer float at The Bunny Hutch in Lincolnwood. I swear it had about a pint of ice cream in the giant cup. I was sick for a couple days from it...but I'd do it again.
That is a shit-tonne of ice cream.

bbq chicken from Booby's. That was the owner's name. No idea why, he's been dead for 40 years so we'll never find out. Nice man though. He'd be happy to see how packed his place was. 

Because you need to wash down that bbq with a tamale? 
So you get the idea. Anyway, as the boys were lingering over their hot dogs at Poochies, Danny decided to ask one of the kids working there if anyone ever says, Drag it through the garden. 
"Yeah, sometimes." She replied cheerfully. 
"Since when?!" I demanded. 

It seems in my decades long absence from Chicago people have started saying silly things. You know, I'm terribly disappointed, Chicago. I leave for thirty some odd years, I mean I barely turn my back and you what? You start saying, Drag it through the garden? What kind of crap is that?! I can't leave you guys alone for a minute-you can't be trusted. What's next, historic gangster tours? 

Fine. Some people (what's the word I'm looking for here? Douchebags? Tossers? ) might feel clever using faux diner slang at a hot dog stand, but I promise you, they sound foolish. Dont. Do. That. 

Al Capone, bang bang.


Bibi Maizoon said...

I've only been to Chicago twice but I have to say: the quality & variety of different foods available was much better than anywhere in California. You'd think California would have better Asian food- but no. The Greek restaurants & steak houses were just amazing.
I gotcha on the fake Chicago lingo, I get to hear the 'valley girl' vocal fry dotted with 'like' &"totally' when it's noted I'm from California. Nope, the valley girl thing is only a southern California thing limited to the LA area. Yes, we do have a few Northern California words you don't hear anywhere else like "hella"- as in "hella cool" or "hella badass"

beate grigutsch said...

wonderful! marvelous!
if the literature novel price bunch ever decides to work proper again i´ll vote for YOU!

Mim said...

Danny's got a lot of years without junk food to make up for. And soon he may find himself with a lot of years without a data plan ;-)

I know what you mean about people introducing phrases in the place where you grew up being irritating. I get really annoyed when people talk about a particular part of Norwich being 'the lanes' because *it was never called that* and now they've tried to make it a thing. It's probably the faux-traditional aspect that's annoying - by all means people can make new phrases, whether that's the lanes or drag it through the garden, but they shouldn't pretend it's always been that way!

Beth Waltz said...

Could be worse, Goody, could be worse. Say "I live in Indianapolis" and too many people reply: "VROOM, VROOM" while steering a race car. It can be funny, 'tho, to see the tourists stumble on their Joe Cool performance. We, too, have favorite fast food joints and I stood in front of a couple of chracters speaking loudly of their "connections out at the track" who obviously didn't know the little man standing behind them in the line was famous driver Mario Andretti. Nobody blew his cover, so the great man ate his samich in peace.

Propagatrix said...

“You live in Oakland? Do you see rappers getting murdered all the time?” “Tou work in San Francisco? Gay earthquake hippies?” At least when I mention Milwaukee, people merely scratch their heads and offer “That’s in Minnesota, right?”

My dad’s favorite hot dog stands was the late Parse’s Red Hots, and I bet he never heard anyone there say “drag it through the garden.” My particular jones is Italian beef, which cannot be found in California. Last time I landed at O’Hare, my brother picked me up and immefiately drove me to Tore & Lukes in Palatine for an infusion.

Polyester Princess said...

The Danny episode, with him texting you, had me laughing out loud. Oh dear! He's got a sense of humour, that's for sure. And he IS a teenager ... The name of the town where I grew up, and later returned to live, contains the colloquial for one's backside, eliciting a constant stream of jokes. And what about living in a street called "orchard", and other children invariably asking, second tree, third branch? or some such nonsense. Or people suppressing a yawn upon hearing you're from Belgium, or quite often not knowing where it is, or thinking it's a part of Holland instead of a separate country. Admittedly, we are not strong on hot dog stands or burger joints, but we do have delicious "frites", which some people insist on calling "French" fries. Exasperating! xxx

Veronica Cooke said...

I remember visiting Shakey's in Chicago (I think it was called that) in 1970 with my aunt, uncle and cousins. It was the first time I had eaten pizza. We got wonderful boater hats to keep and there was what we would now call Karaoke - singing along to songs whose words were displayed on a screen while the music to the songs was played. I absolutely loved it all and kept hat the hat for years...

Sounds like your lot are having a ball in Chicago!

Miss Magpie said...

I had my first experience of a deep dish pizza when I visited Chicago about 5 years ago, good lord I didn't know it was possible to get that much cheese into a pizza...

Thankfully we don't seem to have any annoying sayings around Oxford, it's amazing how some things can just grate to the point of murder!

9658 Textiles said...

Haha, great post! "he wont think it is so funny when I toss him out when he turns 18" is something that comes about once in a while at our house too. lol. Thanks for sharing.


Goody said...

I had no idea "Hella" was a northern California thing-you hear it everywhere now.

Thank you!

When neighbourhoods get new names it is a bad sign that gentrification is coming-at least here.

That is the BEST story!

When I hear Oakland I think, "Cool Korean grocery stores" but that's me. I should think Milwaukee would at least get some snark about Laverne and Shirley. We got Danny a beef sandwich-he was impressed.

A person would need to be willfully ignorant to not know where Belgium is-or they slept through history class. Frites had always fascinated me and when I finally succumbed to double frying my potatoes to see what the difference was, I was hooked!

Shakey's was a chain across the country but I think it is long gone now. We had a good time, but honestly, I was happy to get out of there and get back to my routine.

@Miss Magpie
Yeah, deep dish is...different. I've only tried it once and that was enough-I swear I could feel my arteries shudder!

Teens just bring that out, don't they?

Vix said...

It's like a different language, isn't it?
What a great read. I have to admit that I've only been to the States once and hardly ate a thing, the big portions and all that deep frying put me off eating. xxx