Wood Working: Even movie wieners, lusciously shown, trigger my hunger
I'm like Pavlov's famous dog. When a bell rings, I begin to salivate, or slobber, if you caninists prefer.
The bell rang for me last month when Ruth and I attended a showing of "Hyde Park on the Hudson," at the Sarasota Cinema Society.
My first mistake was to ask the ticket seller if there was a discount for senior citizens. He looked at me as if I were about five peaches short of a lug.
Turns out everyone in Sarasota is a senior citizen and they were packing into the theatre to watch a re-enactment of an era they can still remember.
Next, my bell was rung when the beauteous Laura Linney, playing Franklin D. Roosevelt's fifth cousin and mistress, smeared mustard on King George of Britain's hot dog.
It wasn't the sexual innuendo that got me.
It was the hot dog.
Plump, juicy, grilled to perfection and placed in a bun that looked almost edible. It was to me, slobbering, nature's most perfect food.
Interest in the movie deteriorated after the hotdog scene and turned out to be a trivialization of an important event in which an English king came begging for money from the "Colonies."
Bill Murray as FDR is passable, but not as good as the critics (also slobbering) say he is.
But watch for Elizabeth Wilson as FDR's mother, who steals the show.
But let's get back to something more important than a cinematic confection: The hot dog.
When we left the theatre I told Ruth, "We must have a hot dog for supper."
She sighed and said, "But Dear Light of My Life, we have all those stone crab claws we bought at Walt's fishmongery."
"I want a big hot dog, a really big one like in the movie," I said, stamping my foot on the floorboard.
We don't know Sarasota very well, so ended up at Publix, a fine southern grocery chain.
There we bought four giant Nathan's Famous wieners and a loaf of Publix's excellent "Cuban" bread, a long baguette with a crisp crust and a soft interior, as well as a jar of Grey Poupon mustard and a Walla Walla onion.
After we finished our repast, the One Who Means So Much To Me asked, "What's this with the hot dogs?" as she glanced over at the fridge stuffed with stone crab claws.
I took her on my knee and gently explained that when she was knee high to a Hardee napkin, this great land of ours served hot dogs, lots of them, everywhere.
Out on Coney Island there was Nathan's Famous. All over the Midwest, there were Greek run "Coney Island" shops.
I remember my uncle Floyd calling one in Eau Claire, asking for "100 dogs, one quarter plain, one quarter with mustard and onions, and one half with the works."
When the delivery boy came to the door, Uncle gave him a five-dollar bill and a one for his trouble.
Then the "Coney Island Shops" began to disappear. (The one in downtown St. Paul has been closed for years.)
Happily, when I was in high school you could still buy a creditable dog at Kresge's counter on Barstow Street in Eau Claire.
I came home to Whitehall and asked my father why we didn't sell hot dogs at our restaurant, the Snack Shop. He told me it was economically unfeasible.
"How much did you pay for your hotdog at Kresge?"
"We charge fifteen cents for a hamburger," replied my mathematically astute pater. "And we charge 10 cents for a cup of coffee. How can we find a slot for a hot dog?"
Years later came the King of all Hot Dogs, a chain called Lum's which grew like Topsy, then mysteriously disappeared only to pop up once again in my lifetime in of all places, the Plaza de Toros, the bull ring in Madrid.
I ate two, giant tube steaks the size of knockwursts before I settled in to watch the slaughter of the bulls.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.