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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Ode to the Chicago red hot. Never say ketchup.

The dill spear should be carefully aligned along the dog

A variation.
I lived and worked in Chicago at times when I was a college student.  At the time, the farm equipment industry at which college students in our community, 160 miles to the west, sought summer jobs was going through some lean cycles.  The factories weren't hiring some years.  During those slow times, I went to Chicago to find work.

That was long before student loans were available. For those of us who had to work to come up with tuition and college fees, work was not always easy to find.  There were jobs that didn't pay enough to save some aside for  college. When I did find a job in a factory, the pay from one summer could cover a year's tuition and fees as long as I lived at home with my parents.   But when there were no jobs, I went to Chicago, found some day jobs, and took classes at night to keep the education moving.  Living expenses took most of my wages, so I had to learn to scrimp to put away any money at all.  I learned the value of the Chicago hot dog.

Some of the best Chicago hot dogs were sold from carts.  My brothers and I lived in an apartment that was a half a
A Lake Michigan breakwater in Chicago known as
The Rocks
block from the lake.  The lakefront did not have a beach at that place, but consisted of a stairway-like breakwater of huge stones.  A man parked his hotdog cart on the grass behind the breakwater and did a brisk business with people who came to sun and swim at The Rocks.  I learned that the frankfurters were made by a company near the Chicago stockyards and were Kosher, made of beef, so that Jewish people would buy and eat them.  The dogs were served on a poppyseed bun with an array of garnishes:  mustard, pickle relish, dill pickle, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and onions.  Putting ketchup on a Chicago hotdog was considered akin to drinking a single malt Scotch with 7 Up.  

One could subsist on Chicago hotdogs.  And many of us did.   They were a way of surviving hard times with a kind of elan.

At nights, the hotdog vendor parked his cart a few blocks away on Broadway outside of some jazz clubs.  Their customers and the musicians came out between sets and lined up for hotdogs to energize for the night.

I learned from neighborhood residents that the hotdog vendor made enough money during the warm months that he could afford to spend the winter in Florida fishing and lounging about on sand beaches.  

Those hotdogs were a way of life.

1 comment:

Porter Lansing said...

Great stuff. As you no doubt remember, the proper name for this ubiquitous Chicago condiment isn’t just pickle relish. It’s “neon green“ pickle relish and is 💯 % necessary. 😷

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States