Hot dogs are sacred, especially in the US, where they've become a quintessential “American” food by ticking off all the requisite boxes: They’re hand-held, they’re fatty, and they were hijacked from another culture and rebranded as ours.
Let’s be real though: This particular sacred cow -- or pig, or chicken, or little bits of each jumbled together with whatever nutria or other creatures found their way into the grinder -- isn’t exactly high brow. Yet for a food that consists of an intestine jammed full of offal, tendons, and other stuff that the general public would generally scoff at if presented in non-tube form, there is no sect of food fan more inherently snobby than the hot dog eater. Bougie "foodies" don't have shit on the average baseball fan, blue-collar eater, drunchie-seeking hipster, or 5-year-old.
Want proof? Put some ketchup on a hot dog and watch the room turn on you. I do. Often. Because to me, it's the best way to eat a hot dog. And if you're too up your own ass about eating a food made of parts of an animal's digestive tract, you're missing out.
Before you get your pitchforks out -- which, in a perfect world, would be adorned with hot dogs to roast over my corpse -- let’s consider the myriad toppings people find acceptable on hot dogs. Chili. Slaw. Mac & cheese. Relish. Beans. Nacho cheese. Fruit. Grilled onions. Peppers. French fries. All perfectly acceptable.
There are more than 40 regional takes on the hot dog. Some involve wrapping the thing in bologna or bacon. Others transform them into a tortilla-less burrito variation. And while you hear the wayward grunts from purist over variations like the Seattle dog, they all seem to get a pass. Largely because most of them are great. Of course they are. They're hot dogs!
Yet throw a nice little strip of ketchup on a hot dog in front of a crowd and I guarantee at least somebody is going to give you shit. It’s weird, not only because it’s about the least offensive thing you can do, but also because of the seemingly acceptable behavior involved: Short of busting out a rotisserie chicken at a PETA meeting, in what other situation would somebody feel compelled to approach a stranger and tell them what they’re eating is an abomination. Yet the minute the Heinz comes out at a hot dog shop, the world goes silent for a moment, then erupts in feigned outrage.