Frankly, This Column Is A Wiener

Published In The Ferndale Record-Journal

This week I read an article posted on MSNBC online about a national crisis brewing in Switzerland. It seems the Brazilian cow intestines normally used as casings for Swiss pork and beef sausage have been banned by the European Union citing the threat of mad cow disease.

Apparently, Swiss sausage manufacturers will be forced to utilize less sturdy and desirable alternatives for their products. And with Switzerland and Austria hosting the 2008 Euro soccer championships this summer, inferior sausage enclosures are a major concern.

In a Swiss parliamentary debate last week, one senator pled with the Economics Minister: “I ask you not to underestimate the importance of this problem.”

This begs the question: Huh?

As someone who has not eaten a hot dog since the Ford administration, I found this story particularly amusing and somewhat perplexing. Do people know what hot dogs and their more sophisticated cousins, sausages, are made of?

I know, I know. Purists will point out how a sausage is not technically what we refer to as a hot dog. But, it’s all variety meat to me.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Counsel (I wish I was making this up, but I’m not) is based in Washington D.C. and offers a Web site containing some carefully chosen copy about its favorite food.

“First, specially selected meat trimmings of beef and/or pork — just like the meat you buy in your grocer’s case — are cut or ground into small pieces and placed in a mixer. When poultry hot dogs are made, poultry trimmings are used.”

The site does not go into what ‘trimmings’ consist of, but we can imagine, can’t we? It continues:

“Each package of hot dogs contains an ingredient statement, which lists everything that goes into the product. These days, it is less common to use variety meats such as hearts in hot dogs. When they are added, the package will clearly state “with variety meats.” The particular variety meat used also will be listed in the ingredient statement.”

OK, ‘less common’ usage of organ meats is still not selling me. But the following description seals my moratorium on hot dogs forever.

“Because the casings on natural casings wieners are made from cleaned and processed animal intestines..”

That’s it. I don’t care how much they’ve been scrubbed, refined or transformed—intestines are intestines. And I choose to not put them on my plate, thank you very much.

Maybe it’s the fact that one night, many years ago, I held a sick two-year-old on my lap while she threw up her hot dog dinner. Or perhaps it goes back to a rather nasty confrontation I once had with a woman whose last name was Wiener.

Whatever it was that happened put me off the dog for life. Go ahead and call them bratwurst, kielbasa, or frankfurters. Dress them up in whatever cute little names you want: Franks and beans, corn dogs, pigs-in-a-blanket—they’re all mystery meat and they are all disgusting.

Once, attempting to prove to myself I still had the chops to eat a link or two with breakfast, I tried some of those meatless sausages. Not bad. They were spicy like the real thing, and missing those annoying little hard bits of bone or gristle.

However, I can never go back. I’ve even forgotten what hot dogs taste like. And I don’t ever feel left out at baseball games and barbecues—I just eat something else.

In fact, I will go so far as to say a person can live a full and happy life without ingesting sausages of any kind.

But don’t tell that to the Swiss.

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