Monday, May 29, 2017

Rant: The Hot Dog & Ketchup Myth

In the movie Sudden Impact, Inspector Harry "Dirty Harry" Callahan stated, "Nobody, I mean nobody puts ketchup on a hot dog." When Anthony Bourdain asked President Barack Obama whether you should put ketchup on a hot dog, he replied, “It’s not acceptable past the age of 8." The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council also has declared that, "Don't...Use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18." In Chicago, they are especially virulent against the use of ketchup on hot dogs.

Start a conversation on social media about ketchup and hot dogs and you'll hear many adamant, and even vehement, admonitions that you should never put ketchup on a hot dog. It can be a divisive topic, one filled with emotion, and will likely come to the forefront once again as the summer season nears, and backyard grilling begins. Last week, I was involved in a Facebook thread which raised the issue of hot dogs and ketchup, and it spurred on today's Rant.

Contrary to the haters, I like ketchup on my hot dogs and I'm here to defend my stance and shatter the myth. When it comes down to it, the primary reason for the opposition to the use of ketchup on a hot dog falls apart when the facts are properly considered.

Why so much hate for ketchup on hot dogs? At its heart, the most commonly stated reason is that ketchup is too sweet. However, that reason fails to be convincing with further analysis. First, there are numerous different types of ketchup on the market, with varying degrees of sweetness, including some which are far more savory. Thus, you can't generalize about ketchup because of its diversity. Second, many people approve of chili on hot dogs, yet they don't seem to realize that ketchup is an  ingredient in a number of chili recipes. You might then have ketchup on your hotdog and not even realize it. However, chili is considered an acceptable hot dog topping, despite potentially containing ketchup.

However, for the most compelling argument, we must look at the famous Chicago-style hot dog, especially that the city is so strongly anti-ketchup. Their hot dog is topped by a mound of ingredients, including yellow mustard, chopped white onions, green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomatoes, pickled sport peppers, and celery salt. With all those ingredients, can you really appreciate the hot dog itself? The numerous condiments seem to be the star of such a hot dog.

In addition, and most importantly, this Chicago-style hot dog generally contains more sugar than a hot dog covered with just ketchup! It seems rather disingenuous for Chicagoans, and others, to complain that ketchup is too sweet yet their own famous toppings present even more sugar.

Let's consider the sugar levels of a few toppings. In general, ketchup contains about 3.5-4.0 grams of sugar while sweet relish has about 4.0-4.5 grams of sugar. So why is sweet relish acceptable, despite its high level of sweetness, while ketchup is disdained? It makes no logical sense and destroys the argument that ketchup is too sweet for a hot dog. In addition, the average tomato contains 3.0-3.5 grams of sugar, making it the second sweet ingredient on the Chicago dog. Plus, Vienna sport peppers have about 2 grams of sugar and dill pickles have about 1 gram of sugar.  meaning there are three sweet ingredients. That means a Chicago dog could possess three times the amount of sugar found in ketchup alone.

The opposition to ketchup as being too sweet on a hot dog clearly falls when you look at it rationally. The famous and well-accepted Chicago-style hot dog is much sweeter than a hotdog merely slathered with ketchup. Since the sweetness argument has been put to rest, what other complaint can you have about the use of ketchup?

In the end, we also have to remember that this is just a simple hot dog. It isn't haute cuisine. It commonly includes meat trimmings and fat, spices and preservatives. So what's the big deal about what some people choose to put on it? Why be a snob about putting ketchup on such a plebian food? Get off your high horse about what you think is an acceptable condiment for a hot dog. Ketchup isn't the villain so many claim it to be.

2 comments:

James Asbel said...

Personally I am against a fat squeeze of ketchup directly on the dog, but I find it indispensible to run a fine line along the top of heated sauerkraut, then tamp it down with the back of a fork and sprinkle with crushed red pepper. That's the way Alphonse Rociewcz did 'em for me and my dad at his cart on Willis St. in Hartford on Saturdays after suffering a morning at his office when he had to look after me. Will always remain a staple of my delayed gratification portfolio.

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