Mike Royko November 21, 1995
Even a U.S. Senator Can Botch a Recipe for SuccessThis simple little quiz is directed at those who love hot dogs. Not any hot dog, but the true, classic Chicago hot dog. The finest hot dog known to man.
Look at the following recipe and see if something is wrong. If so, what?
Chicago hot dog: Vienna beef hot dog, poppy seed bun, dill pickle, jalapenos, relish, mustard, ketchup. Place dog in bun. Cover with jalapenos, relish, mustard, and ketchup. Serve with dill pickle.
The flaws are so obvious that by now those with civilized, discriminating Chicago taste buds are snorting and sneering and flinging this shameful recipe to the floor and spitting on it.
It deserves nothing less.
But not merely because it includes ketchup and omits sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, and that miraculous dash of celery salt.
No, I won't condemn anyone for putting ketchup on a hot dog. This is the land of the free. And if someone wants to put ketchup on a hot dog and actually eat the awful thing, that is their right.
It is also their right to put mayo or chocolate syrup or toenail clippings or cat hair on a hot dog.
Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians.
The crime is in referring to the above abomination as a "Chicago hot dog."
And who did it?
Brace yourselves for a real shocker.
Some time ago, a hot dog recipe book was put together by the American Meat Institute, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, and other groups that promote the eating of dead animal flesh.
They got their recipes by calling the offices of United States senators. Being publicity freaks, most of the senators responded.
Most of the recipes are ridiculous, since most senators are ridiculous.
And this shameful recipe was contributed by Senator Carol Moseley-Braun.
Yes, Senator Moseley-Braun, who claims to be a Chicagoan, actually told them that a Chicago hot dog includes ketchup. And that it doesn't require chopped onion or sliced tomatoes or celery salt.
I don't know what could have possessed her to do such a thing. She is a liberal Democrat, so I can understand her deep yearning to seize our money and throw it hither and yon like so much political confetti. That's part of the natural order of Washington creatures.
But to publicly state that you put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog? And overlook celery salt? It is said that power corrupts. I didn't know that it brings on utter madness.
Apparently Senator Moseley-Braun pays little or no attention to my efforts to maintain standards in those things that are unique to Chicago.
If she did, she would have noted a column that appeared here in July of 1993. In it, various hot dog experts commented on ketchup.
Maurie Berman, who owns Superdawg on the Northwest Side, where I've been eating classic hot dogs for about 40 years: "I see more and more desecrations of the Chicago hot dog. Yes, we provide ketchup, but we have the customer defile it himself.
"We say, 'Sir, the ketchup bottle is on the side. We'll ask you to squirt that yourself.'"
John Miyares, who serves hot dogs at Irving's near the Loyola University campus, says: "No ketchup, no kraut. That's the law. But when you're younger and your mom lets you put ketchup on the hot dog, you get used to it, I guess. The people about 35 and over, they get upset if you mention ketchup, especially if they're born and raised here. And even more if they're South Siders.
"But we get a lot of students from out of town, and they all want ketchup. Except if they're from New York. They want steamed sauerkraut."
Pat Carso, manager of Demon Dogs on the Mid-North Side, said: "You have to ask for it. And more people are asking. I don't know why. Maybe parents think it is better for their kids. But we choose not to put it on. Even if they say 'everything.' In here, that does not include ketchup. We don't even keep ketchup up front. We have a little bottle in the back if people ask for it."
These men are keepers of the flame. They are cultural and culinary descendants of the short Greeks who used to take their pushcarts into every Chicago neighborhood and would have thumbed the eyeballs of anyone who dared ask for ketchup.
But here we have a United States senator, allegedly representing Chicago and the rest of Illinois-even the Downstate yokels-and she shames herself and the rest of us by displaying her ignorance of what makes a hot dog a true Chicago hot dog.
I'm sure Senator Moseley-Braun has the usual excuse: Someone on her staff did it.
Well, forget it. That only proves that senators hire boobs.
No, the buck and the hot dog stops here.
There is time for Senator Moseley-Braun to mend her ways. But if the election were held today, I'd have to vote for just about anyone running against Senator Moseley-Braun.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
My First Real Hot Dog
When I was a kid my dad took us by train to Chicago to visit his oldest brother. This is one of the first vacations I remember from my childhood. My Uncle Harold was a wealthy man. I remember a red and a blue Cadillac in the garage (his and hers), not to mention the first time I'd ever seen a laundry chute (In those days everyone lived in a Single Level Ranch Home in most parts of Arizona). We did all the tourist things, Sears Tower, Old Chicago (I'm showing my age), Brookfield Zoo, and of course the Museum of Science and Industry. It was at the museum that I had my first real hotdog, and it's a good thing I did. Prior to this street vendor experience I would drown a hot dog in ketchup and mustard with some pickle relish for good measure, but it was at this hot dog stand that I learned that in Chicago ketchup goes on fries and hamburgers... They don't even have it available at the hot dog stands and I couldn't imagine using it on a hot dog today. So, why should you care about how to fix a hot dog? No reason really, it's just I was inspired to write this after being turned on to a great journalist and reading a famous article of his which uses a classic Chicago hot dog to make a point (thanks Joe, I'm taking your advice).