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Published: Thursday, 5/26/2005

Relishing end to frank debate

BY KENDALL F. DOWNS

HOT dog!

Just in time for the grilling season, two Chicago companies, Alpha Baking and Vienna Beef, have agreed to resolve one of the great summer conundrums: to whit, how to balance the ying of the eight-pack of wieners with the yang of the six-pack of buns.

Through uncounted generations, fathers have passed on to their sons barbecue secrets ranging from the mystery of the perfect sauce to the exact number of adult beverages that can be consumed while grilling an inch-thick steak medium rare.

Feuds have broken out and families have been torn apart over whether the perfect dog is all-beef or beef and pork, boiled, grilled, or steamed (and if so, in water or beer).

But while the merits of hickory vs. mesquite and charcoal vs. propane have served as summer rites of passage in many homes, nowhere in the briquette annals is it recorded whether it is better to eat the two extra dogs sans rolls (raising the question of what, without the enveloping folds of cylindrically shaped bread, will become of the relish?) or buy a second package of buns, four of which are then doomed to become miniature bricks.

In fact, according to people with too much time on their hands, 837 million packages of hot dogs were sold in 2004. That's more than 6.5 billion dogs! And Alpha and Vienna officials estimate that at least 2 million buns are wasted each year as a result of this packaging discrepancy.

Large family gatherings have never addressed this critical issue because, by their very size, they necessitate the procurement of multiple packages of both franks and rolls, which means their numbers can even out at 24, 48, 72, or 96, depending on the get-together's size. What to do about this problem has consumed some of the greatest minds and most notable personalities in history.

For example, in the Old Testament of the Bible, when God separated the heavens from the earth and the land from the water, the hot dog was most definitely not separated from the bun.

Was it not Aristotle who said, "The frankfurter perfected by the bun is the best of all meals; it is the most terrible when it is consumed without the roll, and without condiments"? And in the 15th century, England's Richard III, during his fateful contest with Richmond, was heard to exclaim, "A bun, a bun, my kingdom for a hot dog bun."

More recently, it is commonly held in backyards across the land that the most important result of scientific inquiry into the "expanding universe" theory has been the development of the frank that "plumps when you cook it" to more fully fill out the classic roll. Who is not familiar with Einstein's famous: E=MC2 (Enjoyment equals mustard times catsup squared)?

Frankly, it's appropriate that entrepreneurial giants from the city once known as "hog butcher to the world" have signed what they styled as a "piece" treaty, promising that forevermore they will package buns and wieners alike in groups of eight. We can only hope that the suppliers of hot dogs and buns in our corner of the world, now that the path of righteousness has been shown to them, will follow the enlightened example of their counterparts in the city with big shoulders.

And if they do, can the packagers of brats and - dare we say it - Polish sausage be far behind?



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