With the summer picnic and barbeque season stretching out ahead of us, how could I resist reviewing Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, by comedian and writer Jamie Loftus, published May 23rd. Since this is a book about hot dogs, a content warning is prudent, and the author herself opens her book with one:
Before we begin, a few content warnings. “But Jamie, content warnings are for babies, I don’t need a ‘content warning.’” Well, mind your business and turn the page then.
In this book, there are occasionally frank (pun not intended but cannot access better word at this time) discussions of disordered eating, drug use, violence, and descriptions of working slaughterhouses. Much of the book isn’t about these topics, but some of it is, and I’ve tried to give you a heads-up where those sections are in case you’d rather read ahead. Take care of yourself; it is not worth it to sacrifice your mental health over my hot dog book even though I think it’s pretty good and thanks for picking it up.
Well, this review is going to skip over those unpleasant sections (well, the slaughterhouses and ingredient parts at least, but maybe I’ll keep the sex and drug use bits), because we’re gonna celebrate hot dogs whether you like it or not!
The book for the most part is set up as a cross-country road trip in the late-Covid summer of 2021, with the non-driving author being driven thousands of miles hither and yon by her boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend), accompanied by a cat and an actual canine dog. My state of Arizona is one of the early stops, and here we explore the history and delights of the Sonoran hot dog, grilled and served in a bun sliced at the top but NOT end-to-end, with bacon, tomato, onion, salsa, mayo, mustard, and beans.
They also took a side trip to see The Thing! My heart went pitter-pat, because every time we’ve passed the The Thing? Mystery of the Desert! A Sight to Behold! billboards while driving in southern Arizona, I’ve
begged ummm, suggested to my wife that we pull off at exit 322 and see it for ourselves. Alas, she has always nixed the idea. And alas, the author and her boyfriend actually get to the building housing The Thing, but then balk at paying the five-dollar admission. Dammit, they’d just paid $3.50 for a hot dog, but then passed up The Thing over a lousy fiver. I guess I’ll never know the Mystery of the Desert that lies within.
It seems rather fitting that after stopping at a gas station in Texas, Loftus sidetracks into a long, second-by-second description of a five-minute video uploaded to YouTube in 2012 entitled “How It’s Made — Hot Dogs.” Okay, I know I said I would skip the gross, disgusting parts of the hot dog story in writing this review. And so I shall. But let me just say that her five pages describing the video were absolutely hilarious. I would advise you NOT to eat a hot dog while reading these pages, not because of the disgusting details about what you are ingesting, but rather because you will be laughing so hard you’ll probably choke. At the very least, have someone familiar with the Heimlich Maneuver close by.
OK, I lied. I can’t resist. Here is a short sample:
A gigantic pile of randomized, pale raw meat said to include fatty tissue, sinewed muscle, head meat, and some liver is pushed into a tenderizer with a metal rake and pulses pornographically, bouncing as it smooths out in the same pulsed motions of a married couple doing doggy style on a Tuesday night. These are the cuts left on the slaughterhouse floor, only to find a third life in the soon-to-be-thick goop I will spend an entire summer punishing my body with.
Are you still with me? That wasn’t so bad, was it? Believe me, it gets worse. And funnier.