Author’s Note: Is it me or does the title of this post sound like a children’s story? 🙂
It’s funny the memories another trip around the sun can revive, but I’ve been reminiscing lately about my favorite childhood birthday traditions, and without a doubt, mine was my birthday hot dog dinner. My sister and I got to choose the cake my grandmother or mother would make us and the meal for our special day; because mine is August 5th, it was the perfect day to have a cookout and my favorite grilled food was my father’s hot dogs. He knew just how long to grill them so they’d get that crispy skin without being burned that made them so good. That was just the beginning for this tasty treat, however, because a hot dog is only as good as its toppings. Now there are probably hundreds of combinations, but as far as I’m concerned, there are only five hot dog condiments worth discussing: onions, chili, shredded cheddar cheese, sweet relish and mustard. NEVER KETCHUP!!! NEVER, EVER KETCHUP!!! (That should be a slogan for something don’t you think?). And with the essential condiments is the precise order in which they go on the dog, and I do not waver from this order EVER: mustard on both sides of the hot dog, sweet relish, cheese first THEN chili (so the cheese melts), and a sprinkling of onions on top (my father had to dice those because my mother is allergic to raw ones). We always used either Hormel Chili No Beans or Bunker Hill chili, which, to be honest, I always thought was gross (sorry Mama and Daddy). It was just really grainy and Hormel was just the bomb. Eventually, I graduated to having steak for my birthday dinners – someday I’ll have to tell the story of my 16th birthday at Steak and Ale where the kid sitting next to us puked all over his table –but when I was a kid, all it took to have a great birthday was a hot dog, Neapolitan ice cream (all three flavors at once) and some cake. These days, with football practice, my husband (whose birthday is the 6th) and I celebrate early, usually with a massage at our favorite spa and a home cooked steak dinner, and those memories are as special as any I have from when I was a kid. Aging brings with it change, and even though I completely enjoy my birthdays now, I will always remember how sweet my childhood celebrations were, even if my sister told me on my ninth birthday that she was giving me a wedding Barbie doll about twenty minutes before I opened my presents.