Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weenie War

I am a picky eater.  Very picky.  There are lots of foods I will not even try, and never have.  Most of them are meats or meat products.  Ham, deli meats, most sausages...they are just a few items on my no-no list.  But one food stands far above the rest.  It is my great adversary.  The Professor Moriarty to my Sherlock Holmes.  The Robert E. Lee to my U.S. Grant.  The Wile E. Coyote to my Roadrunner. That great enemy of mine is: the hot dog.

People often do not believe me when I say that I have never eaten a hot dog in my life, but it is true. Not even once has a frankfurter touched my lips.  I haven't even been tempted to try one.  I don't know if it is the eerie similarity in shape and size to a certain part of the male anatomy, or the rumors that they are made of sheep intestines and stuffed with eyeballs, hooves, and various other rejected parts from the meat packing plant.  I would rather go hungry than eat a hot dog, and on occasion actually have.

My loathing of hot dogs somehow became a well-known quirk of mine when I was a kid.  When hot dogs were served, as they often are to groups of kids, I would turn up my nose.  Forget about trying one; I would not even touch one.  A child who would not eat a hot dog was thought an oddity by many adults, and for some  reason it became a notable characteristic of mine.  "The kid who won't eat hot dogs" they called me.  I didn't promote it, but apparently it was viewed as being so odd, and the strength of my resistance to even try one was so great, that people noticed.  The mothers of my friends were flabbergasted when they threw a birthday party and they had this one little creep who just would not eat what all the other guests were so happily scarfing down.  A friend's father once offered me $10 (a princely sum to a little kid), just to take one bite of a hot dog.  No way.  It didn't take long for word to get around that, if hot dogs were on the menu at a party to which I was invited, it was a good idea to have a PBJ on hand as a backup.

I remember one time in parochial school when I was about 7, I ordered school lunch instead of bringing my own as I usually did.  The menu said pizza for that day, and I was all about that.  Now our school did not have a kitchen or cafeteria.  The lunches were prepared by cooks at the public schools, placed in Styrofoam trays, and were delivered to us.  It was some kind of contract deal, I guess.

Anyhow, this particular day, I was especially hungry and looking forward to some pizza, which the school lunch people made especially well.  I went down the hall with my class and got my white tray, full of anticipation.  Walking back to my seat in the classroom where we always ate lunch, I noticed my friend Frenchie out of the corner of my eye at his desk.  On his Styrofoam tray was sitting a rather soggy hot dog and about a half dozen even soggier french fries, along with some shredded carrot & raisin mixture.  My heart sank.  I slid into my seat and opened the tray with dread.  Sure enough: hot dog.  The worst-case scenario had occurred.  Not only was it not pizza, it was something that I absolutely despised. My disappointment knew no bounds.

Now going without lunch when I was hungry was bad enough, but bear in mind, this was parochial school.  Wasting food while there were poor children starving in Africa was just not acceptable. The nuns required that we eat at least half of our lunches or else.  For them, only requiring that we eat half was considered lenient. And no, trading was not allowed.  They kept their eyes peeled for finicky kids like me who might try to break these rules.

There was no way I was going to even take one bite of this thing.  I was willing to go to the principal's office.  I was willing to serve detention.  I was willing to have my parents called.  Heck, they could have dragged me before the pope.  Eating this thing was just not going to happen.  Of course, if there was a way to avoid all of this drama, I was going to do it.

It required stealth.  Just ditching the whole weenie at once would arouse suspicion with Sister Ursula, who surveyed us with watchful eyes.  As much as it pained me to do so, I held my breath, thought of clear blue skies over a flowery meadow, and pulled a bite-sized portion of hot dog off when Sister Ursula was not looking, rolled it into a ball, and shoved it down the inkwell of my desk.  (The days of using ink in schools had long since passed, but we still had the old desks with the inkwell.)  I tried to time my tear-offs with the bites Frenchie was taking so as to add to the believability factor for the formidable nun watching over us.  The trouble was, I hated hot dogs so much that even handling them made me a bit queasy.

Maybe it was warm in the room that day.  Maybe I had a mild stomach bug of some sort.  Or maybe it was hot dog cooties.  Whatever it was, by the time I had clandestinely dispatched of the entire hot dog down the inkwell and into my desk, I was feeling pretty green around the gills.  Fortunately, my desk was within reach of the classroom wastebasket, because I felt that uncomfortable surge from down in my gut, and whatever was down there came back up.

Needless to say, this ruined lunch for many of my classmates that day.  For me, however, it meant a) I got to go home for the afternoon, even though I felt fine after vomiting, and b) I didn't have to eat that damn hot dog.  I did have to clean the hidden pieces out of my desk the next morning, but I was ready for it and did so quickly before class started, holding my breath and keeping my eyes closed.  No throwing up involved.  So, final score: Me = 1, Weenies = 0.

Some of the adults who knew me back then, as well as some of the kids who sat beside me wolfing down weenies all those years ago, are amused to no end to find out that at age 41, I still will not eat a hot dog. I don't get nauseous when I touch them now, but I still will not try them.  I will not eat them in a box.  I will not eat them with a fox.  I will not...well, you get the gist.  That stubborn kid who dug his heels in so deeply against eating hot dogs way back then is still digging in his heels many years later.  Better have a PBJ on hand if you are inviting me over for lunch.


  1. I am definitely not a picky eater, though I'm married to one, so I am familiar with the condition. There are a few things I won't eat -- mostly organ meats and appendages. For some reason, I have no problem with hot dogs, despite knowing full well what's in them.

  2. This is AWESOME! Great Job! Reminds me a bit of the Shawn Mullins "song" (really just a little spoken word thing) called "Salt Lake City, 1973" - check it out