This week in Omnivorous I profiled Vienna Beef VP Bob Schwartz, whose new book Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog is a warm and fuzzy history of classic Chicago hot dog stands. Schwartz is a gregarious and funny guy–that’s his license plate in the photo–and despite his book’s provocative title (provocative to outsiders anyway) it is fairly good natured when it comes to the raging controversies that flare up from time to time when debating hot dogma. If you don’t know what I’m talking about check out the minor shitstorm that broke when contributor David Hammond dared to slag Jimmy’s Red Hots. Hey, you guys are friends! (But for the record, I wondered what Hammond was smoking too.)
I bring this up because that distinguished Investigator of South Side Culinary Oddities Peter Engler referred me to a few old newspaper clips during my research that challenge some of the conventional wisdom passed down through the ages about the origins of the “Depression sandwich.” For one thing the legend of Fluky’s founder Abe Drexler pioneering what we know today as the Chicago hot dog “dragged through the garden” seems somewhat flawed given this passage by Charles Leroux from the Tribune of May 17, 1975:
There are a half-dozen or so hot dog stands that have grown into shrines to the Chicago-style pup—steamed poppy-seed bun; big slices of tomato, pickle, etc. One of these is Fluky’s, 6749 N. Western Av. There, under a three-story revolving hot dog sign, you can sit in the spacious parking lot and have a dog (50 cents, 89 cents for a double) with the works (mustard, catsup, relish, onion, pickle, hot peppers, tomato slices).
That’s right–“the works” at Fluky’s at one time included “catsup.”
I come from a land where it is perfectly acceptable to dress franks with ketchup, but I really don’t have a dog in this fight. I only point it out–with apologies to Schwartz–to suggest that the wiener police ought to take a deep breath and concentrate on their own condiments.
We have 20 other hot dog joints in the listings, orthodox and reformed.