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Gary Priester
An Ode to a Banquet on a Bun

I'm basically a plebeian at heart.

Even though I'm fortunate to be married to an excellent cook, who prepares one fabulous meal after another, and has done so for over twenty years, I have to confess, there is nothing quite like a hot dog. Over the years, I've sampled many permutations of the simple hot dog, the chili and cheese dog, a kosher beef frank on toasted sour dough bread, the kraut dog. I've tried turkey franks, and chicken franks, even tofu franks, and while they're good, they're just not the basic all beef hot dog, on a Wonder Bread bun, with yellow mustard and sweet pickle relish. For a while, I toasted the bun in a buttery pan and grilled the franks on the stove top.  Then I went through a period of grilling the franks over various kinds of charcoal and exotic charred woods. I made thing diagonal slices in the frank so they would expand when grilled, just like the mouth-watering photographs in hot dog advertisements.

On the streets of New York, dining on a frank from a corner push cart, to a day at a baseball or football game, the highlight for me is not the spot, or the sport, but the dog, the hot dog, steaming hot and juicy, and adorned with yellow mustard, (I'm sorry but stone ground gourmet mustard, Dijon mustard with shallots and pink peppercorns, is blasphemy, it has to be good old all-American yellow mustard) and pickle relish is as close to heaven as I could ever aspire.

Perhaps my most memorable hot dog experience was in the 70s. I was mildly stoned, and suddenly had a craving for, what else, a hot dog. I opened the cupboard and discovered some fresh Wonder Bread buns. There was plenty of yellow mustard in the squeezable plastic bottle that made the artistic zig-zag pattern with the mustard, and a fresh container of Heinz sweet pickle relish. I pulled open the meat drawer and could not believe my eyes. There were no franks. Anywhere. Now only in the stoned seventies could I have pulled off what I'm about to relate to you, and I swear it's true.

I prepared the bun, toasting it lightly on the frying pan in just a small blob of butter. I added the sweet pickle relish, and squeezed on the all-American Kraft yellow mustard. And I closed my eyes and said, this is a hot dog. And I willed myself to believe it. And, it actually tasted like a hot dog. No lie. It really did.

Now I can't honestly say that this was the best hot dog I ever ate, and I can't say in all honesty that this was the best meal I ever had. But it certainly has to go down on record, as the most unusual and memorable hot dog I never had.

Gary Priester, themook@slip.net

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