To many people a hot dog is a simple thing. One sausage, one bread roll and maybe some sauce and accompanied filling such as onions. Yet, after looking at this book, you might be forgiven for not understanding that it can be nearly a holy thing, requiring devotion and respect akin to that given to a religious figure. A defining cornerstone of culture.
In contemporary society the humble "dog" tends to fall in the shadows. Think Italian food and people respond pasta or pizza. American food? Hamburger or beefburger. Mexican food.. you get the picture. This book manages to cram in so much history and information about hot dogs than one could imagine is humanly possible. Who would have thought that there would be so much to say, yet the book doesn't feel padded either.
From the start the author contends that the hot dog is a reflection of America: lots of ethnicities mixed together, seasoned and placed into a streamline being, with different toppings reflecting the country's various regions. One product, many origins, many differences but still one core product. As an analogy it is a rather clever, thought provoking one. For a food book, you are not going to learn how to cook the perfect hot dog, yet in many ways you will... you will get a much greater understanding of something that is so simple, so knowingly under-appreciated and culturally iconic. Maybe you will learn, but not in the way you might expect.
This is no dry academic book. It is accessible on so many different levels and could equally be a springboard for deep, thoughtful academic learning or research on one hand whilst remaining a humorous, informative, jaw-dropping read on the other. Something as simple as a full page photograph showing regional hot dog styles - "only" 10 are shown - lets you really understand how diverse and individualistic this perceived uniform dish can be. The level of detail and thought behind the text is impressive, even though at times some of the revelations are, to this reviewer, downright disturbing. Who would imagine a trial of fish hot dogs, described as being canned tuna fish in a tube? This reviewer is not sure whether that is sacrilege, perverse or a good idea. Beauty can be in the eye of the beholder, or taste in this case, but eating a tuna sausage does sound rather odd.
Hot dog iconography, social history, global development and trends are all covered and much more besides in this book. There is even a multitude of recipes too but one can imagine this could lead to some strident discussions with rather opinionated hot dog purists who might consider their holiest of holies slighted, defiled or made impure. Such is the rich variety present in a supposedly simple thing.
The recipes themselves are rather eye-opening and can show the diversity of the hot dog. Before seeing the recipes you might have assumed the diversity would be limited to the style of bread, choice of sauce and fillings. Oh no, there is a lot, lot more. Split Pea Soup with Hot Dogs, Fettuccine with Sausage, Sage & Crispy Garlic, or a Crown Roast of Frankfurters lead the charge. But the recipes are not just "add a hot dog sausage to whatever..." Each recipe is clear to follow, well written and does encourage you to delve right in and have a go. Things are written from a clear U.S.-perspective, as one might imagine, so some of the ingredients might be a challenge to find in local foreign markets, yet there is then even more scope to have a go, substitute a few elements and undertake some leading-edge hot dog fusion cooking!
Should you still be hungry for more information there are a wealth of footnotes and further reading suggestions too. This is a wonderful book, a quite unique considered work. The only issue is possibly the price as it is not so much an impulse buy or an instant gift, yet one can understand the pricing. An ebook version is a little cheaper and no doubt over time some of the discount booksellers will bring the price down a few dollars too. Make no mistake, this is a book worthy of serious consideration if this sort of thing interests you. A lot is filling this little package, perhaps just like a hot dog. From the outside you might wonder is it worth its money... start to bite into it and.... yum!