Hot dogs are a big part of my life. When I was young, my family would go to King Soopers on Thursday nights, when they had a dinner deal: A hot dog for a dime. We'd load up in the maroon Chevy and we'd get five hot dogs for 50 cents. I recall there was a small dining area in Kings with dark wooden chairs, where we'd eat our dogs with packets of ketchup and mustard.
On occasions that my parents would splurge, we'd go to Ellie May's, a home-cookin' restaurant in the King Soopers' parking lot that is now a depressing Old Chicago's. All I remember of this restaurant is hammered copper and toasted hot dog buns. That's all. I don't even remember where the hammered copper comes in. But I can still smell and taste those toasted hot dog buns.
On 4th of Julys and Labor Days, we'd grill in the backyard: burgers for the 'rents and dogs for the kids. I'd always pick the blackest, burntest dog in the bunch and smother it in mustard and onions. We'd eat on the cement porch with our toes in the grass and Daddy Long Legs trying to crawl up our calves.
Later on in high school, my family would load into the car and go to Sonic for a "car date." My parents loved car dates. (They were really cheap dates.) We'd all get hot dogs and sit in the car and watch the cars drive by in the rain.
Now hot dogs are very unpopular. They're seen as the garbage dump of food. What uncouth, unprogressive people eat. As if there's something immoral about being thorough.
I prefer to think of them as pioneer food. Laura Ingalls helped her mom to scrape the hogs' heads to get all the last bits of meat for head cheese. Head cheese kept them warm on January nights when the produce had run out. I don't want to personally scrape hogs' heads, but I do see the value in being judicious with the meat we have.
For me, hot dogs mean comfort and family and America and holidays and summer. They make me think of my mom and her endearing idiosyncrasies, like putting dill pickles and mayonnaise on her dogs. They make me think I'm part of something bigger than myself, even if it is just sausage stuffed in an intestine.
As for me and my family, we will eat hot dogs.