Apologies to my dedicated readers for my prolonged absence–a cross-country move really puts a dent in one’s productivity. Now that I’ve pretty much settled into my new home in the quaint town of Somerville, MA, it’s time to get my blog on.
One momentous occasion that occurred during my epic trek from Northern California to New England was my stopover at Chicago O’Hare. or, ORD as known to those whose tastes inspire “Stuff White People Like” blog posts. Usually, I loathe any amount of time I’m forced to spend at that airport (damn you, American Airlines!) but this time, I was overcome with glee as soon as I stepped off the plane. The reason for my giddiness? The chance to sink my teeth into a a Chicago-style hotdog. It had been three years since I’ve had a proper one, so the first order of business was to grab one of these beauties:
…find a nice, quiet corner in the airport, and chow down.
Ok, so it wasn’t exactly Jimmy’s Red Hots–I got it at a cheesy bar just outside my gate–but after three years of “close but no cigar” dogs, I was ready to eat anything that came remotely close to authentic. And this, my friends, came pretty darn close.
For those who aren’t quite familiar with what Chicago-style means, let me break it down for you:
1) All-beef hot dog. Vienna Beef makes the best.
2) Poppy seed bun. This is a very rare find outside Illinois, trust me, I’ve tried.
3) Yellow mustard. None of that gourmet stone-ground French stuff.
4) Chopped onions. Yeah, make sure you have a couple of strong breath mints and possibly Gas-X on hand for this one.
5) Atomic green relish. Shades of olive green won’t cut it.
6) Pickle spear. The more big and honkin,’ the better.
7) Sport peppers. These are little chiles shaped like Bugles.
8) Tomato wedges
9) And, last but not least, a couple of dashes of celery salt.
It sounds like an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach, but notice that nowhere did I list ketchup. Ketchup belongs on fries, hash browns, meatloaf and all over little kids’ faces and fingers, not hot dogs, and especially NOT a Chicago-style dog. You put ketchup on that thing and I guarantee you’ll get some dirty looks. You might as well be throwing the hot dog in the trash if you commit the ultimate sin in wiener circles. Trust me, you won’t even miss the ketchup with the perfect Chicago dog. That’s what the tomatoes are for.
Here’s a fun piece of trivia: The Chicago-style hot dog was invented during the Great Depression, when vendors in the area started touting the “Depression Sandwich” as an economical meal tucked inside a bun for 5 cents. Also another juicy tidbit: This kind of hot dog is also known as one that’s been “dragged through the garden.” Cute, no?
I’ve written a couple of stories about hot dogs for a client, and my source at the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, there is such a thing) says that poppy seed buns are so hard to find that when the council tried shooting a Chicago-style dog at their headquarters in Washington, DC, they had to buy a regular hot dog bun and glue poppy seeds to it. Yup. It’s like the unicorn of the hot dog bun world.
Want to impress your friends with your vast hot dog knowledge? Then check out the council’s page on red hot history. They’ll be amazed at the sheer depth of your useless intellect. I mean, it worked for me, right? You’re amazed, aren’t you?
Maybe my time would be better spent trying to understand the stock market or nuclear fission or something.