Food Fights: Hot Dogs v. Hamburgers
Is there important stuff worth fighting over in the world today? You betcha. But instead of debating the serious issues of the moment, today I’m picking another stupid food fight.
Here’s the thing. As banal as these arguments are on their face, I do hope that they accomplish something meaningful. I’m concerned that we as a culture have lost our appetite for civil debate and discourse.
Winning an argument doesn’t have to be a scorched earth affair. The other side doesn’t have to be annihilated for you to win. Making concessions can actually improve your persuasive power. And sometimes it’s even okay to take a position you don’t believe in, for the purposes of advancing discourse. So let’s try this today with something that people care about, but is far from a matter of life and death.
Which is better, hot dogs or hamburgers? Today, once again, I’m going to take what I expect to be the minority opinion, and argue the case for hot dogs.
Baseball. What could be better than baseball. It’s the great American pastime. It’s as American as mom and apple pie. And if you’re not playing in the game, you are in the stands eating a hot dog. Why? I have no idea. But hot dogs and baseball are spiritually tied to one another.
Hot dogs are the great American street food. What would Manhattan be without its hot dog carts? It’s the American taco. Think about it. You’ve got a small quantity of deeply flavorful meat, wrapped in a nondescript grain-based vessel, topped with onions and other piquant sauces.
Notice I didn’t say ketchup. The absence of ketchup is just one indicator of the hot dog’s superiority over the burger. I mean, could you imagine putting ketchup on a taco? You use that stuff to cover up the taste of something unpleasant. It doesn’t complement, it masks.
To be fair, the hot dog has an unfair advantage over the burger. It’s already cooked. And not only is it cooked, but it’s smoked to boot. So you get some sweet smoke with your meat, fat, and salt. Which is important. Hot dogs are always well seasoned. There is no such thing as a bland hot dog.
Sure, hot dogs can be over cooked, just like burgers. Their juiciness can be undone by someone who is committed to cooking every ounce of life out of that perfectly constructed morsel. But it’s not easy to do.
Now, might the very best burger be better than the very best hot dog? No doubt. A great burger is a thing of beauty indeed. But a great burger is a rare treat, and incredibly hard to find. Most burgers are just a shadow of the ideal to which they strive.
It’s sad to admit, but the vast majority of burgers are thin, gray, and lifeless masses of ground beef that have been frozen and thawed to the edge of oblivion. If they weren’t cooked all the way through, the microorganisms growing inside the thing might very well bite you back. But even if that wasn’t the case, the glorious, warm, pink center of a perfectly cooked medium rare burger is a dream that most patties couldn’t ever possibly achieve.
Thanks to the miracle of meat curing, any hot dog worth its salt is an appealing shade of pink. Even the “uncured” ones get a rosy glow from the reactions caused by dehydrated celery juice.
Ask yourself this.
Let’s say someone wants you to come along as their guest to a party. And when you get there, you find these strangers grilling in the back yard. They offer you a hot dog or a hamburger. You can only get one. After all, you don’t want to look like a pig in front of your date. What do you ask for in order to make sure you’re going to have a delicious experience?
Remember, you don’t know these people. That hamburger could come from one of those frozen tubes of meat you can find in the value aisle. And it may be hard to figure out if your hosts are cooking those patties to a temperature where the E. coli O157:H7 dies. You have no idea if they are seasoning the patties properly. Maybe they are formed by hand, but perhaps they are hard packed in industrial processing plants.
The chances that the burger will be good are slim. The chances that the hot dog will be delicious are much much higher.
What makes the hot dog even better is its relative cost. Compared to burgers, the hot dog is cheap. And there’s good reason for that, sure. Hot dogs have less meat in them, and more fat. But that’s fine, fat is flavor, and that helps make these sausages a special treat. Plus, it’s better to have these less desirable parts go to human consumption than to be dumped further down the food chain.
By eating hot dogs, you are limiting waste. I suppose by that metric you could then even argue that these are a more eco-friendly backyard grilling treat as well. Man, hot dogs keep on getting better and better.
So now, who is going to stand up in defense of hamburgers?