BIG MAD SPECIAL INVESTIGATION - Hundred Hot Dog Summer
I tried to eat 100 hot dogs this summer. Here's how it went.
It has been a while since I have posted here. I think I vastly underestimated how busy I would be this summer. Also between the end of basketball season and the beginning of football season there’s really nothing interesting to write about sports-wise. The Olympics are painfully boring and baseball is, well, it’s baseball, so I figured I’d stay in my lane and enjoy my summer as best I could. That being said I have some fun stuff planned for football and basketball season that I am excited about. Expect an NFL preview in the next week or so and a MASSIVE multi-part NBA preview some time in mid-October. So stay tuned!
The Hot Dog Challenge
At the beginning of this summer, something felt different. White Boy Summer was upon us. Everyone was getting their vaccines (at least where I live). Bars and restaurants and live events were starting back up. It seemed, at least for a few months, that we’d finally beaten COVID into submission (LOL as I write this on late August, the US passed 100,000 daily cases for the first time since last January. So much for that.)
Anyways back in May, when things were going swell in the world, I wanted to make the summer special in my own way. Being someone who is both goal oriented and has no qualms about treating their body like a science experiment, I thought a food related challenge would be appropriate. I did Whole30 in January because I’m a glutton for punishment, so I thought I would do something similar. But instead of deprivation, I wanted it to be an exercise in excess. I wanted to celebrate what felt like the first real summer in two years. I thought a lot about it and I tried to think of the food that is most associated with summer.
There is only one answer: the hot dog.
The fact is that hot dogs are the quintessential summer food. I would venture to say no food is so closely aligned with summer than the humble hot dog. Maybe watermelon or sweet corn or popsicles could make a reasonable run at the king, but that’s a stretch. I’m sorry there is just something gross about eating a hot dog in, like, November. That’s turkey turf, buddy. Hot dog in February? Pretty sure they don’t even sell them that time of year.
It’s not just about the dog itself, either. Dining al fresco in the summer just hits different. And hot dogs are a staple of summers greatest outdoor meals: the dog precariously balanced on the overloaded plastic plate at the cookout, the golf course hot dog scarfed down between the front and back nine because you forgot to eat breakfast, the 12 dollar dog at the afternoon ballgame you only bought because you’re hammered, wolfing down a rescue hot dog from the snack stand at the beach so you don’t get alcohol poisoning. I could go on and on.
One of the most beautiful things about the hot dog is it’s both versatile and humble. You can dress them up with lavish toppings and all the accoutrement and trappings of fine dining. Or you can keep it minimal, just some ketchup and mustard, and it’s still just as good. People have riffed on hot dogs endlessly, to the point where things like corn dogs and chili dogs have carved out their own little niches in our culinary consciousness.
Hot dogs are also a uniquely American. Sure, virtually every culture on planet earth created a sausage-like meat product of their own centuries before America did with greater effect and panache. But what’s more American than grinding up all the nasty leftover parts of a pig into a gelatinous goo, shaping it into a phallus, and claiming with an unshakeable bravado that this abomination is in fact the pinnacle of meat products?
I was partly inspired by a Workaholics episode from 2014 where Adam decides to eat 1,000 hot dogs in one week to answer the age old question: “Are hot dogs as good for you as they say they are, or are they just ok for you?” 1,000 in a week was a little much. You would probably die of sodium poisoning or something. But 100? Over the course of the whole summer? That was a challenge that would be difficult but not impossible. 100 is a nice round number. I envisioned myself like Wilt Chamberlain, face covered in mustard holding a piece of paper with a hastily scrawled “100” on it. I began to turn it over in my mind.
I floated the idea to friends and family. Some said it would be easy, that 100 hot dogs is nothing. Some said that there would be no way I could finish it. Some pleaded that eating that many hot dogs would literally kill me. I consulted with some friends in healthcare, and they assured me that yes, it could kill me. Nevertheless, I proceeded with the challenge because I am a warrior. I have put far more harmful things into my body in my 28 years, what’s a couple highly processed pork missiles going to change?
I decided that I would eat one hundred hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. One hundred and two days to eat a hundred hot dogs. How hard could it be?
It was really hard. I did not finish. I finished with 53 dogs on the board. Respectable, and certainly much more than 99% of people could pull off, but still far off from the goal of 100.
The hardest part of the challenge was the fact that in order to keep the pace, I basically had to eat one hot dog per day. There’s no food on earth that if you ate it every day that you wouldn’t get sick of it. By hot dog #25 it started to feel like a punishment. It also felt like I had to forgo the ethnic cuisines that I love so much. There’s no Indian or Chinese or Thai or Mexican dishes that call for hot dogs. One night I considered creating a Hot Dog Tikka Masala but better judgement prevailed.
For the first month or so, I was all gung-ho and basically eating a dog a day. I bought some “artisanal” hot dogs and buns from the Whole Foods around the corner, and I was sucking a couple of those down a night. But that got really old really fast, so I decided to take a new tack.
Instead of having one hot dog a day, I would just go hot dog crazy whenever the opportunity struck. Whether it was at a cookout or a local hot dog joint (shoutout to Trina’s Starlight Lounge) or out playing golf I would just ingest 3-4 hot dogs at a time. I figured that sort of binge strategy would make me much less sick of them than if I were to eat one per day. But that strategy sort of backfired too, because the next day I was bloated and nauseous from all those dogs in my belly and couldn’t bring myself to eat any more.
Towards the beginning of August I saw the writing on the wall. I was about 25 dogs behind schedule and frankly would have been ok with never seeing another hot dog again. The thought of a hot dog no longer sparked joy within me. My heart just wasn’t in it.
The nail in the coffin was this bombshell study that came out in August that suggested every hot dog you eat takes 36 minutes off of your life. That means this summer alone I’ve shortened my life span by 31.8 hours. I think five separate concerned parties sent me links to that article. Although I’d lost most of my steam prior to the release of the study, that was sort of the kiss of death for me.
To those of you who supported me in this endeavor, I want to say thank you. Without you rooting me on, I doubt I even would have broken 50. It felt good to see the messages of support every time I posted one of those dogs and that drove me to eat the next one.
To those of you who doubted me or think you might have done better, let’s just see how many hot dogs you can eat next summer.
Miscellaneous Hot Dog Insights
The best way to prepare a dog is to boil it (preferably in beer) then finish it on the grill. Inside stays tender and outside gets nice and crispy. I found just boiling doesn’t give you the nice snap and just grilling tends to make them shrivel up.
To increase the surface area for toppings, slice you hot dogs down the middle, butterfly-style. It creates a perfect crevice for toppings. Especially if you have messy toppings like chili or sauerkraut.
There is no greater sin than serving someone a dog with a fucked up bun-to-dog ratio. Buy the right sized buns for fucks sake!
On the topic of toppings, I’m of the belief that the Holy Trinity of Ketchup, Yellow Mustard, and Relish create the perfect flavor balance. Ketchup brings the sweet, Mustard brings the acidic, and Relish provides the texture.
Vegetarian hot dogs are an affront to God.