The hot dog, oh what a treat

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

You won’t find any health food advocates suggesting that you eat more hot dogs. In fact the advice you will get from those who know best is to stay away from them.

Those who try to guide us to better health know that hot dogs are high in sodium, saturated fat, and nitrites. If you are going to have a fling with bad health habits, however, there is no food to enjoy more when you are in a weak decision-making circumstance than a hot dog.

A hot dog with ketchup is my choice. Sometimes I enjoy a little diversion and go with mustard, which is supposed to be healthier than ketchup. I don’t want onions or relish. Or any other popular toppings. Just give it to me plain. A hot dog and a bun with an ample spreading of ketchup, with a Diet Coke resting nearby. Can’t think of a better snack.

The hot dog evolved from sausage and came about by German influence. When somebody invented the bun, it was a natural fit for the forerunner of hot dogs. You might not feel so good about the history of hot dogs when you learn than it was commonplace in early sausage-making in Germany to use dog meat in the ingredients. That is how the term dog became part of the hot dog tradition. When I am in Germany, I stay away from hot dogs. History impacts my thinking.

What got me into this was a recent trip over to Atlanta for a Braves’ game. Usually, I arrive at the ball park early to visit with someone I know and hang around until batting practice starts. There is always someone of interest camped out at the batting cage. More often than not, you hear cogent talent evaluations from seasoned baseball men at the batting cage. It might be a rookie with the home team or it might be one of the new budding super stars with the opposing team.

After time hanging out on the field, the next move is up to the press box, still a bitter-sweet experience, with Skip, Pete, and Ernie no longer around. Skip Caray, the master of the one-liner, always had a new joke when you showed up at the ball park. Ernie Johnson was a nice guy who never finished last and Pete Van Wiren knew more about the players than the players knew about themselves. Pete retired and Skip and Ernie are now in the press box at the big ball park in the sky. I miss those very different guys who were as much a part of the ball park scene as beer and hot dogs.

In addition to the Braves trio, there might be someone with the opposing team to engage in conversation as first-pitch approaches. Then it is time to order a hot dog and a Diet Coke, enjoy the greatest of ball park snacks, and make my way to the parking lot by the start of the game.

It is then time to head home and listen to the radio broadcast. If the announcers are real baseball men, there is no better way to enjoy baseball on radio than when you are driving. When you arrive home, you turn on the TV and let it put you to sleep. It is early morning before you find out who actually won the ball game.

This routine I continue to follow, and although I miss my friends, I have new ones to enjoy like Jim Powell and Don Sutton. However, the centerpiece of my trip to the ball park remains a hot dog smeared with ketchup. Hot dogs are tasty and give you a sprightly feel.

After a hot dog at the ball park, my drive home is very relaxed and refreshing. I enjoy the smooth and informative presentation of the announcers and savor the hot dog aftertaste. I seem to sleep well when I go to the ball park and allow a hot dog to send me home, refreshed and fulfilled. It would be difficult to imagine going to the ball park and not ordering a hot dog.

During spring training, if the press box meal of the day includes something a serious dietitian would choose, I appreciate the healthy choices. I enjoy the leafy salads they set out and the vegetables they usually include-but I don’t feel that I have been to the ball park until about the third inning when I slip out and head to the nearest concession stand and order a hot dog.

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.