Almost every American kid likes to eat a hotdog, especially in the summertime and especially at a picnic. I never got to eat a hotdog at a baseball game because there weren't any ballparks in my area when I was growing up in the last century. But this post isn't about kids eating hotdogs. It's about grownups eating hotdogs. A different kind of hotdog. The kind you eat in October.
I called them "sour dogs' because they were served with sauerkraut on top of them and lots of yellow mustard on top of that. And they were washed down with beer. Lots of beer. Sour dogs were definitely not summer picnic hotdogs or ballpark hotdogs or any kind of hotdog that a kid would want to eat, even though some kids would eat them. Without the beer, of course.
By the time I was a middle-aged man totally addicted to pizza and Mexican food, my favorite holiday was Oktoberfest, the way Americans celebrated it. The main attractions in a Pennsylvania Oktoberfest were the "beer dogs", the beer that made them taste even better and the polkas that were an integral part of most European-American traditions. In Pennsylvania, where German-Americans were more prevalent and comfortable than just about any other place in America, Oktoberfest was an autumn rite of passage.
I never liked "beer dogs" when I was a kid because I never liked sauerkraut when I was a kid. When I was a kid, sauerkraut looked, smelled and tasted like old cabbage that should have been thrown out weeks ago. But, as a grown man, I found all that nauseating stuff suddenly very appealing. That's what being a grownup is all about. Liking things that kids hate and hating things that kids like. There's nothing wrong with that. This is Earth, after all, where up has been down and wrong has been right — and vice versa — since the dawn of man. No use fighting it.
Of course, all the grownups at a Pennsylvania Oktoberfest always forget that the real reason they're celebrating is because all the crops are now in the barn or sold to the farmer's market and especially that all the hay has been baled. I was going to call this post "Hay Dogs" but I didn't want to steal the thunder from the remake of "Straw Dogs" that just hit the theaters. Thank you, but I'll stick to the original version with Dustin Hoffman and David Warner. Great acting can never be replaced by nastiness and special effects. Not now and not ever. But there I go getting off the track again.
And, oh yeah, hotdog lovers all over America had to put a couple more sad but true facts out of their minds or there would have never been any American Oktoberfests at all. This was the reality that sauerkraut was, indeed, nothing more than rotten old cabbage and hotdogs were mostly cow lips and udders and beer wasn't even fit to drink. That's why it smelled like urine and tasted like stump water. Another kid dislike that grownups, and especially Appalachian men, found terribly addictive.
No, I don't drink beer anymore but I can't resist a whole pot full of "sour dogs" every October. And when they're all gone I set my sights on New Year's, when I can do it all over again, and this time with lots of pork thrown in. Let's face it, we're all stuck here on this big, blue, green and brown marble. Might as well taste as much of it as we can before they send us someplace else.