Writers Writing About Comfort Food: Hot Dogs

I grew up in a family that liked a lot of meat. In the blood of my father is Polish and German, and both parents had farmers in their families, so eating livestock came naturally. Vegetarianism is not an option.

We had some rough times though, so steak and pork chops weren’t always available, but it was okay because we had hot dogs.

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They were the dinner of choice for when Dad got locked out of his job, when we’d just splurged on a birthday or holiday, or when the other meat got freezer burn. Sometimes though, we just felt like hot dogs.

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A person can measure their maturity level through their hot dog toppings. As a kid, I always asked for ketchup. When I got older, I graduated to mustard and ketchup, then just mustard, then mustard and relish, until I reached the adulthood of the Chicago hot dog – mustard, relish, tomato slices, chopped onions, peppers, and the single sliver of pickle.

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These are special. These are the ultimate, the legendary, the “treat yo self” hot dogs, the ones that are worth the money depending on where you go. My family always chose The Wieners Circle for their char dogs and cheese fries, usually on Sundays after church. The hot dogs were cheap, the fries and melted cheese burned our tongues, and my family could sit together on stools and stare out the window, recuperating after shutting down our brains long enough to get through the three-hour church service. We’d gather our char dogs, stuff them into our mouths, and let all the flavors mix together on our tongues. They fell apart in our hands as soon as we reached for a second bite, but it was okay. Mom and Dad always brought extra napkins.

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