by Mason Johnson
My grandpa used to say, “You know you’re not a kid anymore when you stop putting ketchup on your hot dog.”
Whatever, grandpa. Guess this twenty-something is still a kid.
Yeah, that’s right, I put ketchup on my hot dog. Born in Chicago too. And honestly, I don’t care anymore. This whole ketchup back and forth, the debate over whether it’s right or wrong, the sleepless nights where I wonder if I’m going to H-E-double-hockey-stick because of my choice of condiments, I’m done with it. In the touching words of Phil Collins’ 1983 hit “I Don’t Care Anymore”: I don’t care anymore.
Guess that was kinda redundant.
But! If the comments on my Best Hot Dog article are any indication, many other people do seem to care. It is for you passionate, ketchup-hating Chicagoans that I move forward. I’m going to find out whether ketchup on a hot dog is really an offense you should be ticketed for. (Mayor Emanuel could really use the extra revenue.)
I started my ketchup adventure in a place my friends all tend to congregate: the internet. Specifically, facebook.
I made a post that simply said, “Ketchup on a hot dog is:” and waited for the answers to roll in.
What they had to say was not encouraging for my cause…
The general consensus was that putting ketchup on a hot dog was for children from New York (arguably some of the worst children in existence). What I found out here was simple, that I wasn’t going to get any answers out of my fickle friends, especially Russ “Februaryy” Woods who only likes ketchup–not hot dogs–eating the stuff without anything at all.
Lacking any real results from my friends, I got off my butt and went out in the wild world to get some ketchup answers from some ketchup experts.
Doug of Hot Doug’s (arguably one of the most popular and best tasting hot dog places in the city) was nice enough to put up with my ketchup questions. Here’s what Doug had to say:
Mason: Ketchup? Good? Bad? Who cares?
Doug: I’ve always been emotionally neutral about condiments – it’s quite a subjective subject. Either you like it or you don’t – good and bad are not part of the equation. (I guess that philosophy degree didn’t totally go to waste!)
Mason: Do a lot of your customers get ketchup? Do you judge them?
Doug: Many customers do get ketchup. And, yes, I do judge them, but not because of their ketchup issues. I usually judge them based on their attire and hairstyles.
Mason: Would you rather be forced to bathe in a hot tub full of ketchup for an hour every week for the rest of your life, or have your pinkies amputated?
Doug: How do you know I don’t already bathe in a hot tub full of ketchup for an hour every week?
Touché, Doug. Touché.
Gene & Jude's
I’ve been to Gene & Jude’s many times and am well aware of their hatred for ketchup. They simply don’t have it. Not anywhere. Not for your fries, not to eat straight out of the packet like some weirdo named Russ, and certainly not for your hot dog. Ask for it and expect to get an earful.
Despite my love for ketchup and hatred for mustard, I love Gene & Jude’s. I legitimately love getting one of their dogs, fries piled on top, even if they won’t lemme put ketchup on it.
Still, I was slightly afraid as I called them. What if they recognized my voice from the many times I’ve come in, knew that I was that guy… Knew I was that guy who loves ketchup?
I called anyways at about 11 AM, attempting to get my call in before the lunch rush.
I asked if I could talk to them about ketchup, and the voice on the other end replied quickly, “I’m actually extremely busy right now.”
“Oh, okay,” I replied.
And then we hung up.
I’m too afraid to call back, but I’ll definitely go in soon (and you should too). I can only go so long without eating one of their great hot dogs and some of their fries.
Expert # 3:
Park Café, Millennium Park’s spot for cheap food and snacks, is probably host to the most popular hot dog cart during the warmer months. So, naturally, I stopped by and asked the young lady behind the counter, Wendy, a few questions.
Mason: Do you like ketchup?
Mason: Are you from Chicago.
Mason: Okay, let’s say you have two choices, Wendy: you can have ketchup BUT can never see your family again, or you have to give up ketchup BUT you can still to see your family… Which would you choose? Ketchup, or family?
Wendy: I’d give up ketchup.
Wendy: Because I love my family and I would give anything up for them.
At this point, I walked away.
Martha, a ketchup lover not originally from Chicago that sat just outside of the Park Cafe, had her own opinion about this whole ketchup debate. When asked how she feels about ketchup haters, she said, “It really doesn’t matter. It’s not for everybody I guess.”
I pressed her, asking her what she thinks of people out there who think she should be in jail for loving ketchup, and do you know what she said? “They’re crazy.” And then, can you believe it, she had the audacity to ask ME a question, “Who would put you in jail for liking ketchup?”
People on the internet, Martha. Who else?
So what conclusion did I come to? Did the panel of experts help solve this ketchup war we find ourselves in?
Well, no, not really. You didn’t think we’d figure this out, did you? Maybe, just maybe, Martha is right. She may not be from Chicago, but she made a good point: who cares.
Food is food. Eat what you want people, and let others do the same. As long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else with what you eat, it’s fair game.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go eat a hot dog with ketchup on it, then follow that up with enough cake to give myself diabetes.