Tuesday, August 07, 2007

In Quest of Manila's Hotdog Valhalla

GO ahead, name them all -- PurefoodsCDOMekeni -- when it comes to hotdogs, what these Philippine companies put out can all go straight to damnable unforgiven hell. The gas chambers of Dachau and Auschwitz were designed for these artificial, red dye-injected, oversized and skinless vienna sausages posing as anything but the real stuff. No living organism of the earth should ever be sentenced to eat these, much less feed them to children or humans.

Any parent who thinks this is good for their kids should be gassed along with these fake dogs. There's no way to make these things edible regardless of whether you boil, steam or - horror of horrors - fry them (the sight of red dye mixing with the grease is just too much). And has anyone ever been repulsed by how that red coloring looks as it permeates into that undefinable mush of its interior? Worse, they've attempted to embed all the kiddie come-ons inside these things such as cheese, bacon, vitamins, VITAMINS FOR GOD'S FUCKING SAKE, and who knows what else short of antibiotics, hormones and the listeria pathogen. But that's life here, right? Worms, additives, extenders and chemical carcinogens can all be cultivated and be made to live with each other in harmony too, and they wouldn't find the complicated makeup of the philippine hotdog such a bad place to live.

But you see, a hotdog is not merely child's food. It's not about entertaining kids and making them eat shit in whatever form that's supposed to appeal. Nor is it a marketing campaign conceived by mental retardates to appease teenage adolescent psychos or spoiled fat sugar-fed brats who aren't eating right with their already screwed diet in the first place. The hotdog is a purely North American invention and product.

It is essentially a medium to long length all-beef sausage wrapped inside a bun that accommodates the encased meat's shape. It was introduced at the turn of the previous century in America as a food conveniently held and consumed while outdoors or watching a sport such as a baseball game or walking through an amusement park. That is why it IS as 'american' as baseball and apple pie. To even challenge or distort the definition of the hot dog would be to question the tradition born of that particular culture, and why it wouldn't surprise me that that would be basis enough for americans to go to war over the fact. Why? They're AMERICANS, that's why. And so the same squarely, proudly and definitively -- is the HOTDOG.

So what started as an innocent postscript interjection in an email to friends who were heading to the states for summer break over a month and a half ago and which up to now and for me had evolved into an emotionally soulful holy grail quest that ended just the other day in my happy intestines: a true genuine, imported for my eating pleasure Nathan's Famous Hot Dog -- served in hotly steamed yet unassuming perfection nestled in a bun topped with a latticework of mustard spread that complemented the summer salty, meaty taste of this Coney Island New York frank.

The repository and sole custodian source of Nathan's Famous here is the 'Hotdog on Sticks' franchise that now dot most of the major malls and supermarkets in the city, and they are exactly the right kiosk entity to introduce the name and the product to Manila. They've been making their own local wieners since 1984, but they chose to start importing Nathan's only at the beginning of this year and offering them for just a few extra pesos more, not to the elite or upper classes of this town but to the general public who with their kids in tow at any given day or location treat them to hotdogs on buns or on sticks which children always like. Hell they've even got corn dogs! When I found their stall at the Glorietta in Makati yesterday, I froze and stood in glee in front of the familiar Nathan's sign, and at the vendor who before I even stopped had already yelled 'HOTDOG SIR!' at me.

I stared with dropped jaw at the menu display like an anthropologist looking at egyptian hieroglyphics. It listed 'medium dog', 'jumbo dog', and 'spicy polish dog'. This was IT. I had reached my destination of frankfurter valhalla, and it felt downright euphoric trying to decide what to go for. But of course, the jumbo had to be it. 'RELISH SIR?!??' to which I instantly shouted 'NO!' and chose just mustard to grace the sacred meat. No freshly-diced onions which I wanted but that's okay.

My fingers were twitching with anticipation as I watched the guy assemble my order and as he handed it over, I had to cradle it for a second to view it in its wondrous entirety before digging my front incisors on the right leading edge of the furter.

Even without the diced onions but with yellow mustard squishing out the sides of my mouth, I was THE happy camper. In that moment the rest of life, consciousness, and the world faded into the background. Given my fill the past few months of dealing with difficult, old, complicated and dying people and situations, I was one again with a good and familiar thing that didn't need much else except a modest and welcoming appetite. And the whole deal was just sixty pesos ($1.25 USD) plus the worthy mention that you can get a side order of their really good french fries and onion rings for an additional thirty pesos (.60 to 70 cents).

As much as it's too easy to believe that one can have the best of anything in the West and certainly this is as far and unlike being anywhere in New York City, Manila and why I love this town is that you can have just a taste of nearly everything one's been hankering for and after the occasion of experiencing content, I can go back to the real, daily sustenance that's kept much of the center intact and an ultralight heart going. And even from across the world of its origins amidst the heathen hordes, the plain lowly hotdog must still always have its true keepers of the flame.

Ben

1 comment:

Toto Ed said...

I can never relate to this phallic-looking red stuff as a meal. I don't like buns either. I'd rather munch a carrot drumstick. What Up, Doc?