There were two choices when dining al fresco during the summer: hot dog or hamburger. I always chose a hot dog, unless it was a McDonald's hamburger.
There was a hot dog place near where I lived called The Windmill, because it was shaped like...
For many years, I had no idea what a windmill actually was--I thought it was a place that produced really awesome hot dogs with crinkly burnt, split skins. We always got them served with crinkly fries. When I could dine out on my own dime, I discovered the Windmill also served fries with cheese, fried mushrooms, and meatball subs. It really is amazing that I survived until college...
There is a more famous place called Max's nearby, but only tourists go there. People in my area know that the best place to eat hot dogs is sitting up in the balcony above the Windmill.
I am no longer a 'hot dog' person for some reason. I have tried eating the Windmill as an adult but it just isn't the same as when I was a kid. I often think that about junk food. I'm not sure if my palate has gotten healthier or if junk food, even gourmet junk food, has gotten worse. Perhaps a combination of both? But I just don't really like hot dogs anymore.
Still, it can't be denied that hot dogs are considered one of the quintessential all-American foods, like hamburgers and pizza. My grandmother always called them frankfurters because her father--my great-grandfather--was of German-Jewish extraction. Just like she never pronounced dachshund 'DASH-HOUND' but 'DAX-HUND' instead.
I believe that 'hot dog' became a popular term during World War I, to 'de-German-ify' the name of the sausage, kind of like 'Freedom Fries' during the Iraq war. Given that hamburger is also a German name, and pizza is Italian, I have no idea why the phrase 'chopped sirloin on a bun' wasn't suggested as a replacement for the equally Teutonic hamburger, or 'open-faced mozzarella and tomato sauce sandwich' for pizza didn't become popular during World War II.
Given that hot dogs have often been such a Rorschach test for the American consciousness, and the Fourth of July is fast approaching, I present to you....
The Hot Dog Personalty Test
Tell me what you put on your hot dog, and I will look into your soul
|Flickr: Keturah Stickann|
You think you are a bit more daring and liberal than you actually are: you complain about how stupid people are in other areas of the country, like the people who eat KETCHUP on their hot dogs and even on their string beans. You like to talk about the anti-capitalist symbolism in The Hunger Games and feel edgy when you read 50 Shades of Grey. Look, there is a reason that stuff is on the best seller list. Using Grey Poupon doesn't make you Katniss Everdeen.
Oh. my. God. Just kidding. I kind of respect the fact that you don't care what other people think of you. You were the kid who would have the fourth Oreo at the slumber party or the third slice of pizza, and didn't care if they called you fat. You're athletic and slightly suspicious of overly intellectual people. As well you should be!
You approach eating food in a rather academic way. You're geeky and know lots of facts and trivia. You love the tradition of sauerkraut on sausage and also take secret delight in how repulsed some people are by the smell of it. Or you may just use that as an excuse for the fact that none of the girls wanted to date you in high school and you still have a Star Wars action figure collection.
Chili cheese dog (right)
Other varieties of the chili cheese dog include the meaty Michigan hot dog, which has a kind of bolognese sauce slathered on it or Coney Island hot dogs. They are all based on the same principle: spicy meat on more meat, sometimes topped with cheese and onions. If you're eating this type of stuff, you regard a modest dirty water dog with one topping as kid food. You seek excess in all things and don't want to have to choose between the hot dog, hamburger, or chili. You hate sharing your food with other people. You're the type of person who gets annoyed if the other person eating with you gets a salad, even a nice crunchy green salad with blue cheese dressing because you're convinced that no one can really enjoy a salad. You terrorize little children who don't order the most decadent dessert on the menu by shouting: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T LIKE CAKE?" You probably played some kind of team sport in college and may have entered an eating contest at some point in your life, but you lost to someone skinner than yourself, just like the leggy blonde on the cross-country team beat the biggest football player on my high school team in an eating contest at the Windmill one legendary night.
You don't really like this, but you feel oddly compelled to eat this thing, this salad on a hot dog, especially if you've moved away from the midwest. The hot dog is pungent tasting, much like your opinions. You wear thick glasses and have some tattoos that you can conveniently hide during your day job working in IT. You say you're not a hipster, which means you totally are. You have opinions about a lot of subjects, but can't explain why all of the touristy Chicago food looks like a casserole, including the pizza. You think too much in general and agonize over decisions so it's just easier to get this than contemplating relish versus mustard.
Relish (green and other varieties)
Relish can be good, or can be awful depending upon the brand. You're not afraid to take risks, but you like them to be calculated risk. You like the pretty green of relish, just like you are easily distracted by shiny things. You want food to look pretty, which means you eat lots of sprinkles and candy and don't like plain lumps of meat and stuff like that. You use a million napkins to eat everything. People call you high-maintenance, but you say that you're just picky. You college roommate really did want to kill you, even though you thought she was just joking and stressed about her finals.
Weird stuff (peanut butter, bacon, jelly, pizza sauce and cheese)
You're always trying to make things into things they are not. You're the type of person who dates a guy as a 'project' to 'fix him,' like he was a DYI birdhouse that came in a kit. Look, you're no Martha Stewart. You're not even Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Banana only belongs with bacon meat, and merging other sandwich ingredients with hot dogs like peanut butter and pizza sauce is like being Cyndi Lauper, the girl with the orange hair in the 80s trying too hard to be creative. No one really eats a peanut butter and banana sandwich and says: "you know what would make this better? A hot dog."