I did something at my in-laws’ Fourth of July cookout that I haven’t done in years: I ate a hot dog. So did my husband. I think my daughter ate two and a half hot dogs (actually, I think she ate more and gave us a story, but her grandfather maintains that someone else may have gotten the extras in the pack). Given how crappy hot dogs generally are, you may be wondering why we did this: because my in-laws made the effort to buy kosher ones for us, and because Hebrew National hot dogs don’t have much in the way of carb, and my daughter is fairly crazy about them (because we don’t cook enough meat for her tastes at home).
What hot dogs, kosher or otherwise, do have–and this is why I have to put in a huge caveat–is sodium. And saturated fat. A regular H-N hot dog has about 490 mg sodium. A knockwurst (which we decided against; the flavor’s not really very different, it’s just bigger) has 810 mg. Plus more calories and saturated fat, though the regular’s no great bargain–as much fat as protein, easily.
I have to admit they taste a lot better grilled outdoors on an actual grill than they do indoors in a grease-laden cafeteria service pan, especially since you can dress them up significantly with sharp mustard, crusty French rolls instead of whitebread buns, and sauerkraut and browned onions instead of the usual insipid cafeteria ketchup. So I can go with the “once a year, enjoy, and just eat a little more carefully the rest of the week” argument.
However. Hot dog eating contests are just wrong. Sixty-two or however many hot dogs appear in the “ain’t it amazing?” recordbreaking stories section of your local newspaper the next morning? Enough hot dogs for 30 people or so? That’s not enjoyment, that’s not even tasting the food–tasting slows one down, and possibly triggers the dire appetite signal to retreat or suffer an immediate reversal of fortune after just a few hot dogs. Even for teenage contestants.
For the non-contestants among us (such as my daughter), I say, two hot dogs is probably the outer limit of sanity in one day–so just figure you’ll eat the other sixty another time. Two is about half your recommended daily max for sodium intake and about the max for saturated fat. And it’s not really delivering much in the way of protein. What’s true of bologna is just about as true for hot dogs–they’re made of meat, but they don’t add up nutritionally to actual meat (about 6 or 7 grams of protein per dog), and they sure have a lot of downsides without delivering the really distinctive flavors and variety of, say, gourmet specialty sausages.
There aren’t a lot of kosher specialty sausages made widely available in the US at this point. Actually, according to my father-in-law, there aren’t enough true (pork) and high-quality bratwurst distributors either anymore, and the owner of the one available to them, who happens to operate in my mother-in-law’s native state of Wisconsin, has openly supported political causes and candidates that are thoroughly repugnant to them.
I suspect that leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth on the Fourth of July.