Chili, cheese, sauerkraut and onion sauce covered a thick line of spicy brown mustard as it lay upon the steaming dirty-water hotdog nestled in a soft white bun. It was perfection. An ice cold orangeade drink in a tall Styrofoam cup only made it better.
I take my hotdogs pretty seriously. As a true American, I understand that only the above condiments in any combination are appropriate for this classic source of sustenance. What could be more patriotic than a properly-dressed hotdog consumed while standing in front of a breeze-waved American flag?
So you can imagine my trepidation when a friend took me to a “great new truck that will put anything on a hotdog.” (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that a hotdog truck or chrome cart is the only acceptable dispensing site for a true hotdog.) But what did my friend mean by “anything”?
We soon arrived. At first, everything seemed in order. It was a newer-model hotdog truck with a lot of shiny chrome; but the dogs were cooking in water that appeared to have been in use for at least twenty-four hours, a requirement of proper dog preparation. The vehicle was parked in front of a construction company with a large American flag dancing in the wind above us.
“What’ll be buddy?” He spoke the lingo well. I eagerly ordered my delectable delight with chili, cheese, sauerkraut and onion sauce.
That’s when life as I’d known it started to unravel. Somehow, this alleged hotdog professional failed to realize that ALL hotdogs are served with mustard. The fact that he didn’t offer me a choice between yellow or spicy was bad enough; but he didn’t put ANY mustard on my dog!
At first, I was determined to take him to task quite brusquely for this slight, but I reasoned that he was probably as new as his truck to this profession. Instead, I would quietly explain how offensive his breech of etiquette was a little later, away from my friend.
But what happened next was earth-shattering. My friend held in his hands a sheer mutilation of nature. The grotesqueness of the sight initially made me numb; but as his mouth opened to receive this beastly presentation, I lunged forward to knock it away.
I missed. “Hey! What’re you doing?” my friend demanded.
I couldn’t even speak. I pointed to his hands and the monstrosity that was perched atop the bun. “What? Its tuna and red cabbage with crushed garlic potato chips. I love it!”
After I stopped vomiting and began to breathe a little more regularly, my friend sat me down to explain things. “Everyone was always telling me what I needed to put on my hotdog. But it didn’t taste the same to me. I had an urge to try something different. When I learned there was a truck offering all different things, I checked it out.
Soon I realized that I wasn’t really a chili and cheese guy. I found myself attracted to red cabbage and tuna with garlic chips. With the first bite, I realized this is what I was meant to be. You understand, don’t you?”
“No. Take me home.” For two weeks, I didn’t speak to my friend. He tried to reach out, but I ignored his calls and avoided him on the street. Then one day, I was sitting in the park and I saw him. He was holding one of his horrific creations. I cringed as I watched him consume it. It was difficult. I couldn’t understand how he could enjoy something so abnormal. But he did. In fact, he seemed utterly joyful.
Sometime later, I found myself talking to a bunch of my hotdog-loving coworkers. One of them was going off about how his “stupid” nephew was eating hotdogs with potatoes and onions and sweet chili peppers. His brother was at a loss to explain where he went wrong. He never had any such condiments in his home. He blamed television and a bad group of friends for leading the kid astray.
“Is he happy?” I asked.
“Of course not! How can he be? He’s confused or he’s stupid. Why can’t he eat his hotdogs like the rest of us? He’s embarrassing the whole family!”
“Well actually……,” It was another coworker. “I saw him the other day with a hotdog and he looked pretty darned happy. If he’s happy eating hotdogs like that, what’s the big deal? You want him to eat, right?”
Well, the conversation really took a nasty turn after that. I walked away, but the vision of my friend happily enjoying his hotdog popped back into my mind. So I called him and asked if we could get together.
Imagine my surprise when he brought a hotdog with him. It was one of the red cabbage-types. “This is what makes me happy. It doesn’t change anything else about me. I really don’t like chili, cheese and onion sauce, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like you anymore.”
I still don’t understand it. But there seem to be lots of new hot dog trucks with more condiments than ever before. And people seem to like them. Good, decent people who I often can find no other fault in, like my good friend.
So I choose to live with the fact that while our styles and preferences may be different, we’re all still eating hotdogs on buns. That’s what’s important.
It’s beyond my capability to judge what others prefer to put on their dogs. Sometimes I can barely handle what I put on mine. So I believe it’s best that I concentrate more on making the best hotdog for my own bun before trying to convince others what to do with theirs.
Like Paul tells us, “You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing. Keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty about something they have decided is right.” (Romans 14:22 NIV) and “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other.” (Romans 14:12-13 NIV)
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a wonderfully-dressed hotdog calling my name! Peace and Love to you all!