After I graduated from high school I went to the local state employment office to get a job. This was the pre-computer, pre-Internet days. They looked through their listings and pulled a slip from the files and handed it to me. The slip was for a job at Pat’s Hot Dog stand on Sheridan and Parker a few miles from my house. At Pat’s I did what they told me. This included just about anything dealing with the stand. I’d stock rolls. I’d mix condiments (have you ever seen a 50 gallon drum of mustard that was warm to the touch – an exothermic reaction). I’d clean the johns (after this filthy job I’d somehow feel cleaner, don’t ask me why). I’d take orders and run the cash register (note: I didn’t like the pressure of making change – this was in the day when the registers were mechanical and didn’t display the amount to give the customer in return). I’d put condiments on dogs and put them in serving boxes/trays. And most importantly I’d cook dogs.
Now you have to understand that this was a charcoal-fired grill and there’d be 20-40 dogs lined up on the thing. We’d use a pair of long-handled forks to manhandle the dogs on the grill. The tines of the forks were sharpened on the outside edges like a knife. To make the dogs cook faster especially the insides we’d hack at the dogs with our forks to break the casing, but not enough to cut them in half. During each evening that I worked I got dinner as part of the job. You’d think that I would never want to look at another hot dog after that job. But no, I truly came to love those hot dogs especially with mustard and a dill pickle (the only way to eat a hot dog in my humble opinion). I worked there through the summer. When I finally left to go to college, I never returned to that job, but I learned to cook a mean hot dog.
To this day I hand cut all my dog’s casing to speed cooking and to create a tasty crunchy outside. My family thinks I’m crazy to do this, but actually I’m a professional hot dog chef and I just want them to know how to do it right.
[Footnote: Pat’s is no longer in business. Recently when I was in Buffalo, we ate lunch at Ted’s
, Pat’s rival, which had a stand across the street from the Pat’s where I had worked. Their Sahlens
hot dogs are great too, and watching the whole operation brought back these memories.]