Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Ruined Hotdogs

I’m not a particularly finicky eater, but like most people I do have a handful of foods I can’t stomach. Some of them have direct psychological ties to a particular trauma (mushrooms), others are more arbitrary.

I very much enjoy hotdogs. Fresh off the grill on a New York City street corner. Covered in French fries and every condiment available to forge a Chicago dog. Every now and again, even nuked in my microwave, served on curled piece of wheat bread.

I like hotdogs.

My sister doesn’t.

I rarely see my sister more than two or three times a year now. For reasons I don’t fully understand, a particular story comes up.

We’re elementary school-aged kids, and we get in the car after a hotdog lunch at home. I proceed to throw up in the backseat. The sight and smell of the ketchup and beef byproduct and bile mixture nearly makes my sister throw up as well. She holds down her lunch, but can never stomach eating a hotdog again.

In my sister’s telling of the tale, this all happened as the lead-in to one of our thrice annual pilgrimages to visit my grandparents in Queens. There are several pieces of this account that don’t ring true--first and foremost that we never left for such trips after lunch, always departing in the morning and having lunch on the road.

More to the point, as my mother and I recall it, it was just three of us in the car and we were on the way to a routine Saturday shopping trip (albeit made less routine by my projectile vomit and the stop to clean it all up before any semblance of routine might continue).

Not so long after she left for college my sister became a vegetarian, and though, in the years between now and then she’s reintroduced chicken to her diet. And while she opts out of eating most meats, it’s still the very idea of consuming a frankfurter that seems most repulsive to her palate.

In my life in Baltimore, I packed a lunch most every day--typically two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now and again, I’d put the sandwiches on hold in favor of lunch out with some friends. Rarer still, but not unheard of, were those days on which I’d go out for lunch by myself. Such noon-hour sojourns would lead me from my office, down the hill, into Mount Washington Village, across the railroad tracks and under the bridge, and down Falls Road to a little stand on the side of the road known as The Haute Dog Carte. From this humble stand at the side of the road, I’ve devoured all manner of franks and sausages in different sauces, with different accoutrements, few of which I enjoyed more than The Signature Dog--a quarter pound all-beef hotdog dressed with dijon mustard, tomato and onion jam, and bacon and onion marmalade. It’s something simple, dressed up in business casual wears. A metaphor, perhaps for its consumer, and exactly the sort of eatery where I felt most at home, paying in cash, eating my meal seated outdoors on the porch of the cafe next door, or in the grass.

It was a treat--a taste of my youth, if still a reminder of something simple and good that I had ruined for my closest of kin.

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