- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 1, 2006

Now we must speak frankly, and celebrate our franking privileges. We speak of the hot dog, of course, which will loom large in about 48 hours, when proud Americans will eat 150 million of them over the Fourth of July, this according to our friends at the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.

Yes, there is such a thing. Who knew?

The council is there for us should we suffer from hot dog guilt after eating three of them, hidden in the shadows while the three-legged races get under way. It offers hot dog etiquette, advising one to “dress the dog, not the bun” and to eat the entire dog in five bites, although seven is acceptable for a foot-long.

And in our post-dog reveries, the council sages can tell us the German word for hot dog (heisser hund), the Norwegian (grillposer), French (chien chaud), Spanish (perrito caliente) and Swedish (vamkorv).

Yes, we’ll have the vamkorv with some potato salad, please.

Should fisticuffs erupt over the proper topping, the council will solve it. Its official national hot dog topping preference poll reveals that mustard is the favorite, followed by ketchup, chili and relish, although the council notes that “younger adults are breaking the mustard trend, preferring ketchup.” Republicans lean toward ketchup, it found, while Democrats pine for chili.

But even the council may not be prepared for a phenomenon that may inspire Americans either to dance in the streets or to run screaming for the hills.

Behold, the hamdog. Beware the hamdog.

A hamdog is a hot dog swathed in cheese, surrounded by hamburger meat, deep-fried, then served upon a hoagie roll with chili, bacon, onions and a fried egg.

It has been called, among other things, a train wreck, gut bomb, heart attack, food-as-death and gastronomic delight by various culinary critics. The hamdog was invented last year by one Chandler Goff, owner of Mulligan’s Tavern in Decatur, Ga., which also serves the Luther Burger — a bacon cheeseburger upon a split Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut.

But back to the hamdog. This hybrid is just beginning to creep onto the epicurean radar. Nutritional analysis reveals it has 85 grams of fat and 1,451 calories. Gourmets have crafted a, well, gourmet version using organic chili beans, ground sirloin, shallots, chopped Italian parsley and French baguettes.

Variations already have evolved, including the Hamhamdog, which tucks ham into the mix; the Cajun hamdog, which uses andouille sausage; and the Iowa State Fair Hamdog, which coats the hot dog/hamburger assemblage with an egg-and-flour batter before it is deep-fried.

Do-it-yourselfers have invented several home recipes for the intrepid.

“Make sure the paramedics are standing by,” states the final step in a how-to guide for the hamdog-challenged from Everything Co., an online information source.

Yes, well.

Not to be outdone, there’s J. LeRoy Palumbo of Palumbo’s Meat Market in DuBois, Pa. In mid-May, he developed the peanut butter hot dog, which combines beef, pork, spices and peanut butter — a flavor combination not unheard of in Thai cooking.

“There was a lot of eye-rolling,” Mr. Palumbo told the press at the time.

Yet he sold the initial 50-pound batch in a matter of minutes. Town officials already are mulling over the idea of a Peanut Butter Hot Dog Festival — just to give nearby groundhog-obsessed Punxsutawney some competition for curious tourists.

While most of us will be content with a trio of condiments for our celebratory dogs on Tuesday, researchers at the Food Network and Epicurious have plumbed the depths of our collective dog consciousness to reveal toppings of choice here — and yon:

Jalapeno pepper, sauerkraut, relish, onions (Colorado); mustard, relish, peppers, onions, celery salt (Illinois); ketchup, Miracle Whip, cheese (Indiana); dill pickles, bacon bits (Canada); chopped iceberg lettuce and tomato (Georgia); coleslaw and onions (North Carolina); crushed potato chips, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, onions (Venezuela).

Those traveling should note that the nation’s top-10 hot dogs can be found at the following places, according to Epicurious: Flo’s (Cape Neddick, Maine), Mr. Mac’s Canteen (Monroe, Conn.), Otto’s Sausage Kitchen (Portland, Ore.), Pink’s (Los Angeles), Ritsy Lunch (Clarksburg, W.Va.), Rutt’s Hut (Clifton, N.J.), Superdawg (Chicago), Super Duper Weenie (Fairfield, Conn.), Ted’s (Tonawanda, N.Y.) and Walter’s (Mamaroneck, N.Y.).

Should there be a need for novelty, try Octodog, an octopus-shaped “frankfurter converter” that splits the end of the dog into eight sections, unleashing an octopus-shaped delicacy. The device is $17 at www.octodog.net.

“Remember to get out the camera,” Octodog advises.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and Republicans who prefer ketchup for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at 202/636-3085 or [email protected]

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