Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Hot Dog Adventures, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I discussed a study that claimed a person’s lifespan will be reduced by 36 minutes for every hot dog eaten. That essay generated significant feedback, so this column is a follow-up.

If you remember (and maybe you don’t, since hot dogs probably cause memory loss), I calculated the approximate number of hot dogs I’ve eaten in my life. Using 50 hot dogs per year as an average, plus the 36-minute figure, I determined my lifespan will be shortened by 2-1/2 months. This is not exactly a frightening scenario compared to a six-, seven- or eight-decade time period. 

One person wrote to me and expressed shock that I’ve been consuming 50 hot dogs per year during the past six decades. “I know,” I thought. “Less than one per week. That is so few!”

Then I continued reading the email and discovered the person believes that when it comes to hot dogs, any number greater than zero is a health crisis just waiting to happen. The email concluded with this gentle piece of advice: “All processed meats should be OUTLAWED!!!!” (Sometimes I think the primary thing that should be outlawed are hysterical declarations that things someone doesn’t like should be outlawed.) 
Other readers contacted me and expressed concern that something is obviously wrong in my life if I’m barely eating an average of one hot dog per week. One writer offered a succinct summary: “First, no one eats one hot dog at a time. So figure that two hot dogs equals one meal. This means you are having hot dogs for a mere 25 meals per year, out of an annual total of 1,095 meals. That’s pathetic! Step it up, Dunn!” This person signed his name as “Oscar Mayer,” so either he’s a smart-aleck who lives in the newspaper circulation area, or he’s a processed meat industry mogul who has a vested interest in seeing me step up my hot dog game.

I freely admit that hot dogs are not good for you. And although I like the taste of hot dogs, there are many other foods that taste a lot better. But unlike any other food, hot dogs have a very strong sentimental value. When I eat a hot dog I can close my eyes and be transported instantly to Fenway Park in 1967. I was 10 years old and my dad took me to my first ever Red Sox game. Everything about that trip flooded my senses: the sparkling green of the grass, the bright blue sky, the shimmering white uniforms worn by the Sox players, and the odd gold socks and white shoes worn by the Kansas City A’s. Yup, that was their last year in KC before moving to Oakland.

Then there were the hot dogs. They tasted so good. And the thing is, after sitting in a tub of hot water for a couple of hours and then being shoved into a soggy bun, those dogs weren’t nearly as tasty as the ones my father cooked on the backyard grille. But it didn’t matter because they were ballpark franks. (Not to be confused with the brand name, Ballpark Franks.) 

When James Earl Jones gave his famous speech in the movie “Field of Dreams,” he instead could have said, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been hot dogs....Hot dogs have marked the time.” As long as he was standing in front of a beautiful baseball diamond, it still would’ve been one of the most stirring moments in cinema history.

So, I’m not apologizing for liking hot dogs. And to that gentleman who wrote to me, just remember that if hot dogs are outlawed, only outlaws will eat hot dogs. 

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