SO, HERE WE ARE, just coming off of National Hot Dog Month, and yet we still have absolutely no clue what we're doing.
Used to be, you bought a package of wieners, you took them home, you boiled them. Boom - Saturday lunch.
Fancy was grilling the dog. If you really wanted to do it up, you put cheese inside it, wrapped it in bacon, and broiled the thing.
The connoisseurs bought all-beef frankfurters. The rest of us bought whatever-they-put-in-'em ones. Pork. Beef. Eyelids. Didn't matter.
A hot dog was American.
Americans were simple.
But, as you no doubt noticed while observing July's monthlong celebration of the wiener, times have changed.
You know what they have now? The gourmet hot dog.
Yes, I said gourmet and hot dog. As in, oxy and moron.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the lowly dog has gone decidedly upscale.
There is a place in Miami called Franktitude, the Journal reports, that serves a frank with avocado, tomato, wasabi mayonnaise, and banana chips. It's called, appropriately enough, Unique Frank.
There is a place in Chicago, the story continues, that until recently served foie gras hot dogs. That's right, a wiener concocted from the most exalted of French foods. On the other hand, foie gras is just goose liver. How exalted can liver be?
Never mind. It's the principle of the thing.
There is some guy making peanut-butter hot dogs, and there's another guy, right here in my hometown of Washington, D.C., making hot dogs from Kobe beef. They cost 20 bucks!
Twenty bucks? For a hot dog?!
I ate at an upscale, white-tablecloth restaurant last night that had words on its menu like velouté and emincé. In other words, at a place with some pretension. I ordered the Grilled Tasmanian Ocean Trout with avocado relish, balsamic onions, and citrus-cumin reduction. In other words, the pretentious trout. And yet, even at this place in one of the city's higher-dollar neighborhoods, the cost of this dish was only $19.
We're talking about getting a whole bunch of stuff I don't even understand for less than a hot dog costs.
Has the world gone mad? Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
I'll tell you where you haven't gone: the ballpark.
At baseball stadiums these days, you're as likely to find sushi as you are to find a hot dog. The good old-fashioned wiener? It's going to wherever "Joltin' Joe" is.
It had to happen, I guess.
That's what they call it, anyway, when something recognizable becomes something unrecognizable.