You've been eating your hot dogs wrong, and people are judging you.
(Except you're not, and anyone who tells you this is a lunatic who needs to mind their own business.)
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) — or Big Wiener — appears to be some kind of front for the American Meat Institute. And Big Wiener says there are rules to eating hot dogs, such as not dressing them in certain toppings.
They say ketchup is for children, and if you're an adult who does it, then something is wrong with you.
Their website, hot-dog.org, says, "Don't use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. Mustard, relish, onions, cheese, and chili are acceptable."
What are you, First Corinthians? "When I was a child, I ate hot dogs like a child: but when I became a man, I put away the ketchup?"
Because we ketchup lovers don't need some necktie-wearing egghead nestled in their Washington DC ivory tower telling them how to dress a dog.
(Seriously, the NHDSC offices are in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, DC. Do you know who else has offices in Washington, DC? The CIA, and they topple governments. Coincidence? You tell me.)
There's no wrong way to eat a hot dog except for Nathan's annual hot dog eating contest. There's something physically and morally gross about an overeating competition when we live in a country with 35 million people going hungry.
The event is vomit-inducing in everyone except the participants. Because they have a rule about contestant barfing. I won't elaborate too much other than to say, "What comes up must go down."
And if they completely hurl, they're disqualified.
This year, Joey Chestnut won his 16th title by shoveling 62 hot dogs into his gaping maw in 10 minutes, or enough to feed 31 hungry people. That's one hot dog every 9.67 seconds.
Usain Bolt set the 100-meter world record in 9.58 seconds.
Meanwhile, I take five minutes to eat a single hot dog because I chew my food like a civilized person.
Except Big Wiener has another silly rule: "Don't take more than five bites to finish a hot dog. For foot-long wieners, seven bites are acceptable."
Whoa, whoa! Slow down there, Homer Simpson; take as many bites as you need. You're not a frank-failure if you eat a regular dog in six or seven bites — I took seven to eat my hot dog with ketchup today, and society didn't collapse. Plus, it takes way more than five bites to eat a Chicago dog, unless you unhinge your jaw like a python devouring a capybara.
That's because a proper Chicago dog is dressed with neon green relish, diced onions, a pickle spear, tomato wedges, sport peppers, mustard, and celery salt. If you can eat that in five bites, Joey Chestnut would like a word with you.
I do agree with Big Wiener about ketchup on a Chicago dog, though: it's simply not done. On this, we are united.
The NHDSC also has a rule about how to dress a hot dog: wet ingredients (mustard, chili) first, followed by chunky condiments (relish, onions), then cheese, then spices (celery salt, pepper).
Seriously, who are you, the hot dog police? You're not the hot dog boss of me. If I want to put peanut butter on a dog, you can't stop me!
The CIA could, so I'd better watch my back.
Except I don't like it when people try to gatekeep how others enjoy their lives. It's not my place to tell someone, "You may not put ketchup on a hot dog," or "You must watch Star Wars movies in a particular order."
Gatekeepers will say someone isn't a real music fan if they don't like a certain band. Or they're not a real baseball fan if they can't name all the teams in the NL East. Or criticize them for not reading a specific book. Or laugh at someone's attempt for trying a new hobby for the first time.
If you need to make yourself feel better by gatekeeping someone else's enjoyment, you're not a good person. Doing things one way doesn't mean you're the expert or the standard bearer for that activity.
If someone wants to put ketchup on a hot dog, let them. If they want to slice it lengthwise and put it on a buttery croissant, leave them alone. If they want to dice them and serve them over noodles, that's fine.
This is still America. We literally just finished a holiday about being free to dress and express our hot dogs any way we want.
It's none of your business how people dress their dogs. They can dress them in any fashion they please. So if someone wants to dress their hot dogs like a hamburger (or vice versa) and have a damn parade about it, it's no skin off your nose and doesn't affect how you live. Leave them alone and stay home. No one is forcing you to do it, too.
But I do draw the line at ketchup on a Chicago dog. I mean, we're not savages.
Photo credit: Erik Deckers (me, I took that)
My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available from 4 Horsemen Publications. You can get the ebook and print versions here.