Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Hot dog!

Given the choice between a hamburger and a hot dog, I will generally choose the hamburger.

The one exception  I make is at a ballgame when I would never get a hamburger.

If I’m in the mood for an extra ration of fat and grease, I might buy a sausage sandwich. But never a ballpark hamburger. Yuck. Just yuck.

Mostly, when I take myself out to the ballgame, I’ll get myself a hot dog. (Mustard and relish, thanks. Ketchup? On a hot dog? Never! Ketchup is for hamburgers.) Which is pretty much the only time I have a hot dog these days.

Not that, like most kids, I didn’t like (and eat plenty of) hot dogs growing up.  But it had to be hot dog on a bun (even though in those days, I was so fussy I wouldn’t have any condiments on it).

And as a kid, I would have nothing to do with franks and beans. (Despite being a native New Englander, I did not eat a baked  bean until I was an adult. The thought of baked beans just plain repulsed me.  Nowadays, I can go years without eating them, but I will occasionally take the baked bean offer if they’re on the menu as a side. And I like them just fine.)

When I was a kid, I also hated the thought of eating a hot dog sliced up in anything.  Still don’t. (Gag!)

The last time I actually bought hot dogs for home consumption is way, way, way in the way-back machine. It may have been in the winter of 1978, as I remember having a package of hot dogs in the freezer during The Blizzard.

Given that I consume 2-4 hot dogs per annum, and don’t buy them to eat at home, I am one of the folks contributing to the decline in the wiener’s nationwide fortunes.

While tomorrow is the day for peak hot dog consumption -

…when Americans are expected to eat about 150 million of them—enough to stretch from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles more than five times. (Source: Business Week.)

I will not likely be among those doing the All-American thang and eating one.  We’ll be in NYC and, while we will no doubt pass by a Sabrett’s cart, and while – I just checked – Sabrett’s are gluten free (my husband has celiac disease), I’m guessing that the buns on he cart aren’t GF.  And the last thing I want to do is enjoy a Sabrett’s hot dog on a bun while my husband can only eat the hot dog part. (This is really a ‘too bad’ scenario, because one of the things Jim most misses about having to be on a GF diet is getting a hot dog from a stand.  I will note that there is now a GF hot dog stand at Fenway Park, but it has not yet been enough to entice Jim to come out for a game.)

So, while with $1.7 B spent on dogs last year in the U.S. of A.

…and that’s just at supermarkets; it doesn’t count wieners purchased at restaurants and sports facilities or from street vendors.

Hot dog spending is on the decline.

According to figures from IRI, a Chicago-based market-research firm, sales dropped more than 3 percent in 2012 from 2011, following two consecutive years of smaller declines.

The downward spiral in hot dog spending has occurred despite hot dogs generally faring pretty well during economic bad times. After all, they’re cheap and filling.

According to the Business Week article, there are a number of factors at play: the cost of beef is making hot dogs relatively more expensive in bang-for-the-buck terms; fewer kids are being born, and they’re one of the main hot dog consumer cohorts; and, a most likely reason, changing demographics.

None of this surprises Josh Ozersky, a food journalist and historian. He predicts the hot dog will become increasingly marginalized as the U.S. palate broadens. “I would be willing to bet that more Americans, and especially younger Americans, now eat nachos or tacos than hot dogs,” he says. But what about the many outlets that serve nachos on hot dogs? “That’s just proof of the desperate state of the hot dog!” he says. “That’s like a middle-aged actress who gets Botox and breast implants to try to stay relevant.”

Well, Josh, that it pretty darned harsh! Mostly about the actresses, but also about the hot dogs.

Personally, I believe that the hot dog remains relevant.

It certainly does at the old ballgame, where, even with the introduction of a more sophisticated array of options – at Fenway, you can even get clam chowder – hot dog is the king.

And I suspect that it remains a cookout staple, as well.

But the truth is that there are a lot more alternatives to the hot dog than there were when some of us were kids.

Mostly, it was a hamburger and hot dog world.

Pizza existed, but that was about it.

Nachos? Tacos?


They did not exist, at least not in Worcester, Massachusetts.

We had Coney Island Hot Dogs. And Hot Dog Annie’s.  But no place that I can remember where a nacho or a taco would have been on offer.

This was, of course, a million years ago.

The world has changed. And I’m gettin’ old.

My friend Peter was recently told that “70 is the new 30”, but I call BS on that one. (Maybe I’ll feel differently when I’m 70…)

Anyway, although I may not eat all that many of them, I do not want to live in a world in which it’s hard to find a hot dog when you need one.

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