What is the problem with chili anyway?

Today is a travel day for the World Series (Go Sox!) so we can talk about some of the lighter aspects of baseball culture. Well, maybe not so light – either opinionated or gastronomic. What is the deal with places that do not offer chili for hot dogs? We need to discuss this and on this topic I believe I can channel GusGus directly as I’m sure he would agree with me.

This is the way to serve dogs

The problem here is that it is not always possible to find chili for the ritualistic baseball park hot dog. I have several times had to quest for chili at a food concession of Durham Bulls Athletic Park (only one concession offered it, or at least the last time I went hunting) and I’ve been snapped at for asking about the lack of chili by an aged concessionaire at Jack Combs Field on the Duke University campus. It was Duke, what do you expect?

Conversely, I received the best ball park hot dog I’ve ever eaten from the stand at Boshamer Field in Chapel Hill. I even brought one back for a friend and she agreed that it was one delightfully good hot dog. That experience was a surprise as in years past the essential condiment was unavailable there. Even the legendary Dodger Dog that will served by the hundreds tomorrow at Chavez Ravine when the failing Dodgers attempt to win their first game in this year’s Fall Classic does not feature chili. You have to buy the Mexican-themed “Doyer Dog” that is made with chili, salsa, and jalepeños.

Gus would have considered this a travesty.

A hot dog without chili is like a hamburger with a bottom bun but no top bun. Incomplete, naked, just plain wrong.

Dodging chili

I understand setting up a chili pot in addition to the hot dog and bun steamer is more work but would that explanation hold up if – after standing in line prayerfully – you arrive at the front of the line to share holy communion and the father tells you, “Sorry, we’ve got the sip of grape juice but we didn’t feel like making the crackers.”

It is true there are dozens of different ways to make hog dogs and Yankees have been seen putting sauerkraut and relish on dogs – I have too, but only because they didn’t have any chili. Them northerners are bad enough but Chicagoans will put anything (and everything) on their dogs. Hey, cam’on yous guys, the beauty of the hot dog is it’s simplicity and portability. You can eat one and not have to put down your beer. You do not need vegetables or representatives from all the major food groups on that long, hard-to-stand-up-by-itself buns.

I just don’t get it.

Gus would shake his head and remind me that most people are idiots or at least associated with idiots and have little understanding of the larger world or the rituals embedded in sacred cultural pastimes such as baseball. He wouldn’t say it that way, he’d just grunt, shake his head and growl, “dumb ass.”

Of course he would be right. Gus pretty much was always right. When he wasn’t, it was about a subject that wasn’t that important anyway. In those cases, he’d just turn and stare at you until you figured it out for yourself. When the true insignificance of your rant dawned on you, the end-of-the-bar Zen master would smack you on the forehead and intone, “You could have had a V8!”

Such is the stuff of enlightenment. Just as it is clear that ground beef parts need to be added to the ground pork (and other particulate) parts nestled in that enriched wheat flour bun, It’s not supposed to be healthy; it is supposed to be part of the love of the game.

By the way, I’m less dogmatic about mustard. (I even like a little mayo some times.) And we don’t have time right now for the onions versus slaw debate.

Somehow I think Gus would have been pro mustard and onions.

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