For most of us, we’re always questing for something better than what we have. That was a thought that occurred to me yet again earlier this summer when I read a very amusing tongue-in-cheek feature in Sports Illustrated by the very talented writer Steve Rushin, who often writes with tongue buried deep within his cheek, an article entitled “Meat, Pray, Love” on America’s fascination with the hot dog.
The subject was of particular interest to me because Lady Jane and I had just gotten back from a weekender in Cincinnati, a trip that included a terrific Chicago concert at Riverbend on Saturday evening and then a Reds game on Sunday afternoon. Of course, while Jane is always willing to go to the old ball yard on our trips to venues like Frisco’s AT&T Park, Denver’s Coors Field, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Phoenix’s Chase Field among many others, her visits are more about what goes on in the stands, especially the hot dog stands, and less about what’s going on foul line to foul line.
As a matter of fact, were there no hot dogs or at their least close cousins, brats, I really don’t think I could get her to attend. While I admire her willingness not to dwell on the mystery ingredients within a ‘dog’s casings for the food that so many of us are willing to eat but would have no interest in watching how they’re composed, I’m always more than a little disappointed in her choice of condiments.
You see, Jane favors ketchup. Several days after our trip while I read Rushin’s article, I had to laugh when I read a quote about that particular condiment choice on hot dogs, one from Tom Lohr, a Tulsa native who writes a blog about his quest to sample the cylindrical delicacies in as many MLB and minor-league ballparks as he can. According to Lohr, “I think that people over 12 who put ketchup on hot dogs should have to do 100 hours of community service. It’s the desecration of a national food. It’s like defacing Mount Rushmore.”
Whether you agree or not with the blogger’s strong condiment statement, and, as a staunch proponent of mustard on both my ‘dogs and my ‘burgers, there is little question that when it comes to our quest to add a little extra zest to what we’ve already been given (at the ballpark, for a about six bucks a meaty tube), there are those whose choices of add-ons go considerably further off the grid than ketchup on a hot dog.
Probably the oddest condiment combo I’ve personally witnessed was a former college roommate, who used to mix equal amounts of mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise in a bowl and put the concoction on everything from fries to meat products of all types. Whenever I’d watch this disgusting process, one which produced a finished product that looked far too much like diaper deposits, I always had the same thought, which is in life, most of us choose a lane and stay in it rather than simultaneously trying to occupy three at the same time!
In prepping for this piece, recalling Rushin’s article and remembering my old roomie, I went in search of other folks who had some rather odd notions as to what would really spice up their lives when it comes to performing the activity we all must do to sustain life. And, in doing so, I stumbled upon some pretty strange culinary notions, ones actually a whole lot stranger than that mayo-ketchup-mustard concoction that I used to leave the room to avoid watching.
I read about using mayo on nearly burnt crinkle fries, grape jam on bacon sandwiches and dill pickles dipped in peanut butter. Or how about the use of hot sauce on Hershey bars?
So it is with our quest for something better when it comes to what we consume. While I’m sure, once upon a Neanderthal time, Ally Oop was pretty content with just about any beast he dragged back to the cave that wasn’t fast enough to avoid his club, that’s all changed, perhaps because our options are far wider in range than Oop’s.
Yes, it’s changed for all of us right-thinking folks who always use mustard — either yellow or, if you’re at the ballpark, brown on our ‘dogs — and even for those misguided metaphorical Rushmore-defacing types like Jane, who’s constantly reaching for that bottle of ketchup.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.