In food, simple pleasures are often the greatest joys. And short of a fat slab of torchon de foie gras or a well-fed, piping-hot ortolan, for this former New Yorker’s money nothing comes close to a proper hot dog for pure Proustian pleasure. Yet for too long Australians were denied this simple pleasure, having been told for decades that those cirrhotic-orange sausages with cases as thick and rubbery as Brezhnev-era prophylactics were “hot dogs”, when in fact the real thing is anything but. Thankfully, the arrival of the Snag Stand chain, as well as any number of small bars devoted to vague Americana themes, has begun to remedy this: Snag Stand’s “American Classic” is the closest thing I’ve had to a proper dog outside the US, right down to the mustard and relish. The fancy brioche roll, while not exactly traditional, gives a bit of fancy-ballpark vibe and justifies the $6.90 price tag. I’m just not sure where they get off calling ketchup “tomato sauce”, but even this can be forgiven, and their other sausages – the Toulouse and the Kransky are quite tasty as well.
Still, not everyone has gotten the memo as to what constitutes a proper ‘dog. Tuesday has, for reasons lost to the mists of time, been pub night for the Prick for almost as long as the Prick has been in Australia, and this week’s venue was the Clock Hotel in Surry Hills. Now the Clock is undergoing rolling renovations, so they’ve only got a “canteen” menu going at the moment, but nevermind: Last night’s special was (allegedly, it would turn out) a “chilli dog”, and I just couldn’t go past that.
Unfortunately, it appears the dog slipped the lead. What arrived looked good at first. Big fat bun, lots of chilli, jalapenos, cheese, sour cream, the works. But taking a bite, the realisation quickly dawned that something was missing: The sausage. Yes, the chilli was pleasant, a nicely crafted affair of pulled pork and beef and spices with a well-rounded hear. But there was no “dog” in this chilli dog. Instead, the dish was a bowl of chilli with a bun where the bowl should be. Nor is the Prick’s insistence on a sausage a question of standing on ceremony or tradition. The Larousse Gastronomique, the bible of cooking,says any hot dog must include a sausage and a split roll. Simple physics demands it as well: with nothing in the bun to give resistance, biting down just creates a massive, mushy mess. This is one case where science and religion stand in happy agreement, with no need for a Thomas Aquinas to square the circle.