It’s a sad, sad day, America — hot dog season has ended

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Hot dog season is over. Seriously.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council — yes, there is truly such an entity — says Labor Day weekend signaled the end of hot dog season. Put the grills and wieners away for the winter, folks. It’s time for sloppy joes and other indoor types of bun-and-meat goodies.

During hot dog “season,” U.S. consumers traditionally buy more than 7 billion frankfurters. Americans spent $7.68 billion in 2020 in U.S. supermarkets on the wieners of their choice. (For the record, the council says “franks” and “wieners” and similar derivations are acceptable synonyms for hot dogs.)

“With all due respect to hamburgers and apple pie, hot dogs are arguably the most American of foods,” writer Ruth Graham penned in 2014.

It’s hard to argue with Ruth, who says hot dogs owe their popularity, in part, to the accepted belief they are intended to be eaten in public.

“Giving them a democratic aura,” she says.

Food historian Bruce Kraig agrees. He says hot dogs are fast to prepare, cheap to acquire and they’re meat. And Americans love meat.

“These are things that sell to Americans,” Kraig wrote for daily.jstor.org.

Kraig also reminds that, along with being primarily a summer food, hot dogs provide the perfect warm-weather punctuation for most appetites.

“If you make it through (hot dog season) without eating at least one dog, it’s fair to ask whether you’ve experienced summer at all,” Graham added.

For the record, I have experienced summer quite often this year.

Hot dog facts and figures

  • National Hot Dog Day is always July 23. Mark that down for next year.
  • According to a Harris Poll online survey, America’s favorite hot dog toppings are, in order, mustard, ketchup, onions, chili and relish. My opinions of those toppings: No, no, sometimes, OK, never.
  • Sixty-three percent of Americans prefer their hot dogs grilled.
  • The biggest day of the year, as far as hot dogs are concerned, is July 4 when Americans eat 150 million of what is arguably the most popular of all summer foods. That’s enough hot dogs to stretch from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. (By the way, Los Angeles residents eat more dogs per capita than any other city in the nation.)
  • In the movie “Sudden Impact” (one of Clint Eastwood’s best, by the way), Dirty Harry said, “Nobody, I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog.” Truer words were never spoken.
  • A prime spot outside New York’s Central Park Zoo costs hot dog vendors nearly $300,000 per year.
  • The hot dog reportedly was invented in Germany in 1487.

If I Had My Way …

  • All supermarkets selling bags of those super-hot potato chips should provide a free two-liter bottle of some kind of soft drink with each sale.
  • All gas stations/convenience stores should have a worker who cleans your windshields with every fill-up. This used to be a common practice. With the price of gas well over $3 a gallon, it’s the least the major oil companies could do. Those big petroleum producers could be the ones who pay for this window-cleaning attendant. I’m pretty sure their bottom line could afford it.
  • All local newscasts should be expanded to an hour, but with this caveat — both the sports and weather slots would be expanded to 15 minutes each, or two separate 7 1/2-minute segments (one per each half hour). The hour-long production would have the feel of a news magazine and allow for all reporting entities to deal with topics in a stronger fashion that would benefit viewers. More personal opinions from reporters and anchors also could be added. That would add some interpretation to the reporting.
  • Sandwich buns would be solid in packs of two and four, in addition to six and more. How many times do you wind up pitching (or feeding to the birds) half of the traditional-sized packs of buns you buy?
  • Major League Baseball would limit the number of specialty uniforms its teams wear during the course of a season. I fully understand marketing and selling product. Do we really need nine different San Francisco Giants jerseys?
The Oak Ridge Boys performing at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57670645

Top Five

The decades of the 1980s and 1990s were the last great 10-year periods of country music. Most of what we hear to today — actually, I can’t bear to listen to most of it — is hardly country music. That’s another column for another time.

Here’s my choice for the top five country artists of that late, great 20-year window of country music:

  • 1. Oak Ridge Boys: The Mighty Oaks emerged from the Gospel genre, which was always evident in their magnificent harmonies.
  • 2. Alabama: 21 consecutive No. 1 hits over a seven-year stretch says a lot.
  • 3. Crystal Gayle: A marvelous singer and one of the first to combine traditional country with a modern beat, which is what much of 1980s country was all about. 
  • 4. George Strait: Seriously, does anyone not like George Strait? Even today, Strait remains a force.
  • 5. Willie Nelson: Very few singers could ever bring me to tears. The Red-Headed Stranger was/is one. 

Care to guess how many hot dogs Steve typically consumes during the summer?

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