Saturday, February 11, 2012

Where's the Beef?

A Culinary Clown Car

What, exactly, are Chicagoans doing to hot dogs and why? What monstrosities have they loosed upon the Earth? What makes the relish so green? Radiation? Hi-C Ecto Cooler? EvilEVIL???

First off, the screaming unnatural relish. What's the deal? Well, the deal is shenanigans. According to The Wiki it can be either mint or food dye. Mint... mint... Chicagoans shun ketchup, and rightly so, yet they embrace mint dogs. At least food dye pulls off a little carny charm. Mint feels like I was slipped homeopathic roofies.

Now, the rest of the toppings. In addition to the Chicago Chutney mentioned above, the all beef Chicago Dog is burdened with "a dill pickle spear; tomato slices or wedges; pickled sport peppers; and a dash of celery salt". I've had shorter grocery lists. I tried holding one of these behemoths in a single hand like the elegant, movement-friendly New York Hot Dog. I failed. And yet these Chicagoans, these freaks of nature, somehow manage to consume this Jenga of food on the ice skating rinks they call sidewalks while being subjected to winds that would strip the flesh from less hearty types. Mortal men and women who wouldn't dream of eating hot dogs for breakfast. The rest of us.

Some might say that the bitter winters in Chicago require that hot dogs have a nice sweater of toppings to stay warm in the bun. I call that nonsense. New Yorkers experience equal bouts of reproductive organ-shriveling cold and they get by with a manageable number of toppings on their dogs. Others blame Mrs. O'Leary's Cow, but they're usually a few Old Styles deep at that point.

So what's the answer? My theory is that shame and envy drove the Chicago food psyche to develop foods buried under other foods like the pizza-in-a-pizza-in-a-pizza that is Chicago deep dish, and the suffocated Chicago Dog. Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog, it's true, but what's with all of the sublimated foods, Chicago?

I blame the Italian Beef.

Most people outside of Chicago think that an Italian Beef is something Rocco and Guisseppe get into after a few Old Styles, yet everyone knows the Philly Cheesesteak. Both sandwiches were created by Italian immigrants around the late twenties/early thirties. Did Chicagoans feel robbed by Philadelphia's success? Did they envy the "popular sister"? Could the "Cheesesteak Slight" have become a curse for Chicago? Was this the emotional tipping point that sent the Second City's food undercover? I believe so. And if you don't believe me then get your own blog, smartass.

What's next for Chicago? A steak under a lobster? Deep dish ribs? How are the Cubs looking this year? Will they be playing under a salad? Who can say? It's too cold to go there and find out. Besides, the hot dogs are making me tired.

Thanks to The Grill for the dog that made this very special episode of Chowbacca! possible.

Personal Note: Please send good thoughts out to my Evil Twin from Chicago who was going to help with this piece but an asteroid fell on him...again.