A few months ago, I attended a major league baseball game. As part of a great American tradition; I paid twenty dollars for parking, faced exorbitant ticket prices for lousy seats, and dealt with astronomical costs for food and drinks. Have you ever wondered why hot dogs sold at baseball parks are so incredibly delicious? Could it be that since they cost nine dollars apiece, they must be a gourmet item, made with the best ingredients, and prepared by master chefs? My experience at the ball park, got me thinking about all the hot dogs I’ve eaten in my life, and some of the wonderful memories associated with this iconic food item. Though the hot dog originated in Frankfurt Germany in 1852, it has become as American as apple pie, Friday night, high school football games, and Thanksgiving.
If you’re over forty, you might remember a classic jingle from a hot dog commercial by the Oscar Mayer company, which first appeared in 1965, but remained an important part of Americana for another fifty years. The words went like this. “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I truly want to be. Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me.” Do you know that a commercial like this, is no longer allowed to be shown of TV? It’s true. It’s considered to be politically incorrect in today’s environment, in which we don’t want to offend anyone. Personally, I don’t understand what’s wrong with the commercial. It seems to be a wonderful, simple, and inoffensive message, which brings back memories of the innocence of childhood, long, fun-filled summers, baseball games, carnivals and state fairs, and family picnics. As I understand it; we can no longer use the word “wiener,” in any type of advertising. I don’t know why. Maybe, it’s because of that disgraced congressman, named Anthony Weiner, who sent inappropriate pictures of his package to young ladies, and was recently sentenced to twenty-one months in prison. When I mention package….. Lets see how I can delicately put this. It’s not the kind UPS drivers leave on your front doorstep. I’m not positive, but I heard he may have legally changed his last name to “hamburger.” Before I move on to the rest of this post, I have just one more thing to say. “Wiener, wiener, wiener, wiener, wiener. Take that – thought police!”
Do you know that each American on average, eats sixty hot dogs per year? That seems like a lot to me. My entire family probably eats no more than sixty total hot dogs in any given year. Who’s eating the rest of them? It could be all the recent college graduates, who are looking for jobs, living in tiny apartments, and beating back their hunger, by alternating between Ramen noodles, and boiled hot dogs, with day old bread for buns. It might even be the McDougal’s, who live next door to me that are eating all the hot dogs. I was wondering why my neighbors run their grill three hundred sixty-five days a year, get weekly propane deliveries, buy ketchup and mustard in gallon buckets, and have a bun bakery in their basement.
Usually, I only partake of hot dogs for special occasions, like the Fourth of July weekend, a visit to the ballpark for a baseball game, or when my wife’s away, the refrigerators empty, I’m desperate for a quick and filling meal, and there happens to be a pack, buried in the back of the freezer. Why, you may ask, do I limit my ingestion of a tasty American staple? It’s because, even the greatest Nobel prize winning scientists, after years of research, and using the latest in cutting-edge technology can’t definitively tell me what’s in them. I’m serious. Try reading the labels on a package of hot dogs some time. The United States Department of Agriculture, allows hot dog manufacturers to put almost anything into a hot dog, as long as the ingredients are “clearly labeled.” Those words seem kind of scary. Does someone pull a package of hot dogs out of a supermarket cooler, and then meticulously read a label that says the ingredients are: Yak tongue, pig eyeballs, chicken beaks, cow udders, antifreeze for flavoring, and moth balls to ensure freshness. Do they then say, “I guess it’s all right to eat? The ingredients, are, clearly labeled.”
Okay, let’s take a good look at this package of hot dogs my wife bought on sale, two years ago for ninety-nine cents. Just a second. I have to scrape off all the accumulated ice. Hmmmm……. interesting. It says it has beef and pork, meat by-products, natural and artificial flavorings, salt, garlic, paprika, soy fillers, sodium nitrate, and sodium erythorbate for freshness. Oh, I almost forgot. Meat by-products can include: the spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, liver, stomach, and intestines. Here’s some good news. I did find out, that those meat by-products, aren’t allowed to contain hair, horns, hooves, or teeth. Wow, I’m getting hungry already. “Hey neighbor, could you throw a couple extra dogs on the grill for me?”
Before you all rush to clear out your freezer, and bury the hot dogs in your back yard; let me just say that all hot dogs don’t contain meat by-products. If you pay a little more and buy a top brand like Oscar Mayer or Ball Park you’ll get high quality meats like beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Now, if you’re planning on heading to Costco to buy that forty-eight-pack of all-beef goodness, remember that even the highest quality hot dogs have artery clogging fat along with blood pressure raising sodium. Add a bun and condiments, and you’re looking at a concoction that would give Jenny Craig nightmares.
I guess, you’ve all noticed that kids love hot dogs. They’re also so innocent and trusting. If mom hands them a hot dog, they never hesitate before the first bite and say, “Excuse me mom, but does this contain any nose, ear or hoof meat? Billy’s mom told him that hot dogs also raise cholesterol levels, and cause plaque to build up in arterial walls.” Heck no! Hand a kid a hot dog, and you’re lucky to get your hand clear of his mouth, before he’s asking for another. Now, they even have cheese dogs. It’s true. They actually are now injecting cheese into the middle of hot dogs. That has to be really healthy. What’s next; pork rinds fried in lard, and then injected into apples and oranges? Do you know that they even have hot dogs in China? I’m not sure what they’re made of, but I’ll bet the favorite topping is cat-sup.
Hey, guess what? I just got some great news. I can start eating hot dogs again. I just heard about Hebrew National hot dogs, which are what’s called, “Kosher.” This means that the hot dogs are produced under strict conditions, using three-thousand-year-old biblical traditions. Pork or any meat by-products are strictly forbidden, the animals are farm-raised and humanely treated, and to top it off; the entire process is overseen by specially trained Rabbis! I know I can trust Rabbis. I’m Catholic, and they’re just like my parish Priest. When I go to communion, I know he wouldn’t slip me any meat by-products.
Well, I better move on to another simple observation of everyday life. I’m firing up the old grill tonight, and I need buns, mustard, and a couple packs of Hebrew National hot dogs. Maybe I’ll take my dog, Chase along for the ride. Now, where is that canine? “Chase, what are you doing under the bed?”
“Woof, woof, woof, woof woof woof, wooooooooof.”
“Chase, I know the McDougal’s next door, have been looking at you kind of funny, but hot dogs is just a name. They’re not really made of dogs. You’re safe, buddy. Besides, if I cooked you, who would fetch my paper?”