At the beginning of stay-at-home orders, casual trips to the local grocer became masked-and-gloved affairs that felt more like missions than errands. And for some reason, my already above-average love for hot dogs ratcheted even higher. In a household of two people, I’ve purchased over two dozen hot dogs since quarantine, and the only thing stopping me from buying more is the shame of hearing my girlfriend ask, “you’re having another hot dog?” Luckily I can refer to Joey Chestnut, who recently ate 75 hot dogs in the 2020 Nathan’s Famous July Fourth Hot Dog eating contest, and feel like I am a symbol of moderation and discipline.
Hot dogs with pickled cabbage and mustard.
For the price-conscious and flavor-oriented consumer, the hot dog seemed to rise in popularity as quarantine progressed. On April 1, Former VICE EIC Derek Mead tweeted, “Bizarre how everyone I know, including myself, had a hot dog or hot dog-adjacent lunch today.” But this was no April Fool’s prank. Almost a full month later, Motherboard EIC Jason Koebler posed the question of whether he would be eating hot dogs for lunch two days in a row. (He would not.) On that same day, a colleague DMed me on Slack to reveal that they were “half hot dog at this point.” Even when taking a break from my computer to go running, hot dogs followed me.
May 21: hot dog truck sighting.
By my own observations, there is a palpable uptick in hot dog appreciation. They’re appearing everywhere, a Baader-Meinhof phenomenon of processed meat. For me, it’s perhaps the cheapest way to feel the thrill of a barbecue, or the best part of attending a baseball game, within the confines of my apartment.
Meticulously dressing up a hot dog to make it seem more luxurious is a fitting way to go about life right now. I’ve used the hot dog as a blank canvas to make leftovers more exciting, performing such maneuvers as topping them with curry, or stuffing the bun with vegetables to approach a balanced meal. The act of assembling them is barely cooking, and the time ratio between preparation and consumption is alarming, but it is a joy that is reliable and accessible, when not many other things are.
Hot dogs with broccoli rabe, kimchi, and hot peppers.
Last year, a Scientific American story showed that some hot dogs, including those purporting to be “all beef,” are made “primarily of fat globules.” While the hot dog was never perceived as a vessel of good nutrition, I think many of us hot dog eaters at least thought we were nourishing ourselves with more than a tube of fat. (For those who look to see the meat tube half-full, the story also notes that traces of animal lips or anuses were not found in the hot dog samples.) If this study did not dissuade you, there are many iterations to try: There is hot dog Parmesan, the elote dog, and multiple other variations, just in time for National Hot Dog Day on July 22.
Hot dog with pork curry, mustard, and cheese.
Fussing over a hot dog, then sharing the photographed results with friends and coworkers, surely seems like a sign of quarantine-induced madness. But there’s some consolation in knowing there are many of us out there. And while a return to indoor eating is postponed in New York indefinitely, I’m happy to pretend I’m at a restaurant, one dog at a time.
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