Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fourth of July Hot Dogs

A decades long streak ended yesterday. I never did find that perfect Fourth of July hot dog. I had to settle for a Smashburger with lettuce, tomato, onions and mustard. You could almost hear the whimpering between the crashes and thunder of all the fireworks last night.

But wait, after seeing the video of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island, I was kind of glad that I did not eat a hot dog yesterday. So where was the whimpering coming from you ask? It was poor Chester, our Catahoula, who could not find a place small enough for him to feel safe from all the fireworks going off in the neighborhood. Personal fireworks are legal in South Carolina and it seems that every person around had at least one firecracker and one bottle rocket to explode. It all seemed to happen around 9:15 just as the fireworks on PBS’s “A Capitol Fourth” began filling the sky over the National Mall in Washington. The second that the fireworks in Washington were over, those in New York were just beginning. But the ones in our neighborhood lasted longer than both of those displays. What it lacked in intensity was made up in duration.

My hot dog tradition started as a toddler when I would eat my traditional hot dog with mustard and relish every Fourth of July. Notice I did not say chilidog, I didn’t discover those until my freshman year at the University of South Carolina. Down in Florida, the hotdogs were covered in mustard or catsup, relish or sauerkraut, and maybe a sprinkling of onions. They were always thin skinned and pork filled. That was way before we all “got healthy.” These days, all-beef hot dogs are the in thing around here, but not all these so-called “gourmet hot dogs” with jalapeno peppers or avocado, are you kidding me! I will never forget eating my first Nathan’s hot dog, purchased from a vendor in the terminal at LaGuardia airport just across Long Island from Coney Island. “This is gonna be great!” I thought as I chomped down on my first real New York hot dog. “What the heck!” The skin of this thing was so thick and hard that I could have used that hot dog to defend myself in a knife fight. But once I got through the surprise, I enjoyed my “Coney” to the fullest.

As Fourths of July passed, and I entered the “bottomless pit” time of my teenage years, a hamburger found its way onto my holiday plate along with baked beans and southern potato salad and a cold Pepsi! At my peak it would be a hamburger and two hot dogs with all the fixin’s for my holiday meal. When I celebrated in SC, of course those were chilidogs with mustard and onions. Be mindful that true chilidogs were made with chili that contained no beans. The beans would come from the baked beans on the other side of the plate. Oh by the way, never add cheese to this boy’s hot dog. That’s just not done, ya heah!

In the fullness of time, my Fourth of July meal began to downsize, only one hot dog and hamburger, then only two hot dogs and now down to just one hot dog. After dinner comfort wins out over gastronomical glory every time these days. You know, maybe it was a good thing that our parents would not let us swim for an hour after lunch back in the day, I am not sure I could have stayed on the surface. I am sure that my flapping around in the surf would have been a dinner call to all the sharks in the sea. What’s up with all the shark attacks this year? I don’t remember so many attacks in one year, ever.

So, one day this week, I’ll probably go down to Rush’s on the corner and order a hot dog with chili, mustard and onions and a Diet Pepsi. I’ll bring it back home, put on a beach music CD and celebrate my mid-summer tradition and declare that the streak is not broken after all. That is one great thing about being older; you get to make the rules. Oh MY!

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