Jonesing for a Hot Dog in the Time of COVID-19

Hot dogs are perhaps the most social of meats.

It’s still not that hard to remember the days when your dog was passed down a row of people at Wrigley while you passed down your five bucks the other way while sitting on your ass. Everybody touched your dog. Everybody touched your money.

And remember the onion machines and mustard squirters set up at separate places from the concession stand? You’d turn a crank and the onions would tumble out, then you’d palm the squirter to get a generous glop of mustard. You’d then use a communal spoon for the relish, grab a pepper off a chef’s pan if one of them was out there, and pour celery salt from a big jug.

Are those days gone forever?

Well, they probably are for me, because I’d never pay a few hundred bucks for a ticket to a baseball game. There are 162 of them a season. Come on! Well, games were in the old days, too, I guess.

And the myriad stands out there in Chicago, where you could grab a hot dog and sit on a bench right there on the premises and take your sweet time and relish it (okay, pun intended). We can’t quite do that in the time of COVID-19, but thankfully, the hot dog is portable – and the carryout option is still available at several Chicago locations.

You can even get “curbside abuse” at the Wieners Circle.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to get cussed out at Wieners Circle, you have missed out on one of the truly great Chicago experiences. Conan O’Brien once sent the whitest bread man in the world Jack McBrayer into the fray:

Thankfully, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was there to help even the score.

Look at the video. People are elbow to elbow, shouting at each other. Those were what we now must call, “the good old days.”

Takeout is not the only option. I ordered Portillo’s delivery recently, and became nearly delirious from the sheer deliciousness and care they put into it. I nearly wept. I felt like composing a personal thank-you note to the folks responsible, but I was concerned about how they might feel about touching paper.

Lately I have been pondering a recipe that I came up with as a 15-year-old in Bennett, Iowa, when I lived in a farmhouse on a dirt road, with the sound of pig feeders in the distance, clanging like so many porky tell tale hearts.

I used a split-in-half knackwurst, pan fried in butter, face down on a flattop, and simple white bread, which I placed also face down on the flattop, the better to soak up the butter and fond from the shiny encased meat. My Dad had deli mustard, which I put on both sides of the bread, and placed the sausage right between the slices, which then became thin as paper. It was practically a wrap.

A savory delight!

I may revisit it if I can get up the nerve to go to the store in these anti-social times.

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