SLOAN COLUMN: An homage to the All-American hot dog
Americans have a love affair with hot dogs. Wieners, franks, frankfurters, or red hots – call them whatever you want, there’s no denying the fact that Americans have some kind of fanatical hankering for long tubes of processed meat placed perfectly between elongated buns and then covering them in a wide assortment of condiments and toppings.
According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council – yes, there is such a group - Americans spent more than $7.68 billion on hot dogs in U.S. supermarkets alone in 2020.
That same council of experts reports that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans consume seven billion – that’s billion, as in a seven followed by nine zeros - hot dogs. That’s a lot of wienies, especially considering there are only roughly 325 million people living in the United States. Basic math skills equate that to roughly 21.5 hot dogs per person. Feeling hungry?
The peak of hot dog season is Independence Day. On the weekend of July 4, Americans will consume more than 150 million hot dogs. I’m not sure how they came up with this figure, but the NHDSC states that approximately 50,000 of those will be eaten after they have rolled off a paper plate and onto the ground. And you thought no one was watching.
The reigning king of the red hots is Joey Chestnut. The man with the most fitting nickname of “Jaws,” ate 71 hot dogs and buns in one sitting last year to win his 12th consecutive hot dog eating crown. Most Americans eat that number in a year.
So I need to do my part and devour 21.5 dogs this summer. I’m pretty sure I’ve got this. With a little luck I’ll get to live out the fantasy of The Office’s Kevin Malone (“I just wanna lie on the beach and eat hot dogs. That’s all I ever wanted.”). Hopefully I’ll get the chance to gladly and willingly fork over $6.50 for a dog at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
The kids and I will probably cut some up and mix them with a can of pork and beans. You can’t go wrong with beanies and weenies. I also suspect there may be a corn dog or two in my not too distant future.
The more I think about it, scarfing down 21.5 dogs in three months is a piece of cake. If you’re placing bets, definitely take the over.
According to NHDSC figures, the average American eats 61 hot dogs each year. That means some 3,600 hot dogs have slid down my gullet over the course of six decades of fine dining. Here are a few random thoughts that come to mind in regards to my history with the hot dog.
• The best hot dogs I’ve ever eaten were from Johnny’s Hot Dog Truck in Lumberton. I’ve done a lot of traveling both nationally and abroad, but those dogs hold a special place in my stomach. There was nothing fancy about them, but I could eat those things day in and day out. For a while I did just that. •
The most expensive hot dog I ever bought was in Boston. During a trip to see the Sox play in the early 90s, it cost me $9 for a Fenway Frank. Wicked expensive.
• I’ve eaten a hot dog at Nathan’s on Coney Island. It was good, but nothing to write home about. •
The most unusual place I’ve eaten a hot dog? Two places come to mind. First, on a field operation in Tunisia, Africa. My Marine buddies and I chowed down with some British Royal Marines. The Brits called them bangers. Second, while sitting on a large boulder near the Parthenon in Athens. We were in Greece, so it’s no surprise the hot dog was made from lamb.
• Given the choice, I’ll take mine with mustard, onions and chili, thanks.
Here are a few fun facts about hot dogs:
• The most popular brand of hot dogs? It’s a tie between Oscar Meyer and Ball Park.
• Mustard is the most popular hot dog topping. According to a 2017 survey, 71 percent of Americans prefer to garnish their hot dogs with mustard.
• The website www. onlyinourstate.com lists Jack’s Cosmic Dogs as the “Best Hot Dog Joint in S.C.” Also making the web site’s top 10 were Florence’s 301 Drive-in, Hartsville’s Ruth’s Drive-in, and Darlington’s Spring Mart.
• Southerners eat more hot dogs than folks in other parts of the country.
• A hot dog is not a sandwich. Apparently, there is some controversy here but the NHDSC has ruled. It’s a category unto itself. •
Hot dogs were one of the first foods eaten on the moon.
• A hot dog once sold for $169. The world’s most expensive hot dog sold in Seattle, Washington, and it was smothered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie grass, shaved black truffles, and Japanese mayonnaise.