Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s, families were far more concerned about ease and convenience than about organic meals. For instance, while I eschewed vegetables, the ones my parents did manage to force down my throat generally came from a vacuum-sealed can purchased at the disgustingly dirty Greyhound Market in Clarksville.
And the number of Hostess Twinkies I stuffed into my face during my formative years is untold. But I like to believe all this prepared my system for a processed world — I even theorize it may have mutated my cells so that I actually somehow need these preservatives in order to survive.
Enter what I am now calling “The Organic Hot Dog Incident.”
I lucked into a tasty new hot dog topping (Google “Stadium Mustard,” immediately), so my girlfriend Cynthia noted that she had some hot dogs in the freezer; we decided we would enjoy them while watching football on Sunday. Hey, we rarely eat hot dogs outside of Slugger Field or patronizing a local business like Sam’s Hot Dog Stand or Lonnie’s Taste of Chicago, so it sounded fun.
But when the time came, as I prepared to take my first bite, Cynthia said, “They’re organic.”
Whoa. What? Organic hot dogs? Yep, she said. No preservatives. No nitrates. The concept blew my mind.
“No MSG?” I responded. “That’s not a hot dog.” Heck, it sounded like some sort of hipster conspiracy to me.
Of course, as Cynthia noted, at this point the hot dogs and buns were as much a vehicle for the chili, cheese and mustard as anything else, so we pressed on. We both noted that the hot dogs had sort of a muted flavor — not spicy and bold like, say, a Slugger Dog at a Louisville Bats game — but I thought they were OK. I ate two of them with gusto, in fact. She said she thought they tasted a little “weird.” But we enjoyed them.
But then a couple of hours later, the hot dogs bit back: bloating, gas pains, indigestion. So, Cynthia took some Pepto Bismol and I popped some Alka-Seltzer, and we went to bed. And that’s when things got really weird. I had unrelenting nightmares that were a combination of “The Walking Dead,” “Jurassic Park,” “Alien,” “Cops” and a bad REO Speedwagon ballad. I’m telling you, my psyche erupted in psychedelia. Organic hot dog, meet mushroom trip.
Seriously, at one point I was dreaming that some sort of spider creature was living in my stomach, and spinning its web out my mouth. I pulled and pulled and pulled, but the web just kept coming. That’s not a dream you forget quickly.
And so my theory comes full circle. I don’t eat hot dogs often, but when I do, they always contain preservatives. I have two hot dogs with no nitrates, and suddenly I’m at Woodstock? This can’t be a coincidence. And for what it’s worth, our stomachs were no better in the morning, either.
“What the heck were those things, anyway?” I said the next day. So we dug the packaging out of the garbage can, because, by gosh, I had to know. The package was simple enough, blue with the silhouette of a cow, and it informed us that Applegate Natural Uncured Hot Dogs is what once lurked inside. Check out the company’s website (applegate.com): They’re just grass-fed beef with no chemical preservatives, plus ingredients like sea salt, paprika, onion and such for added flavor. How could that be harmful?
It should be noted, however, that Cynthia bought them at a discount ($2 for the entire pack of eight), and they had one of those big yellow “If-you-don’t-buy-me-today-I’ll-be-in-the-dumpster-tomorrow” price stickers on the package. In fact, along with the discounted price, the sticker also read, “Woohoo! Great Deal!”
That’s your opinion, evil organic deli manager.
“All I’ll say is this,” Cynthia muttered the next day. “I ate Slugger Dogs all summer at the ballpark, but last night was the first time I had to break the seal on that Pepto Bismol.” Duly noted.
As of this writing, I still have four of the devil dogs in my fridge, which is a little scary. The truly terrifying part is that I’ll probably end up eating them. Can I add my own MSG?