There’s a fairy tale with a line that goes “If your mother only knew, her heart would surely break in two.” Well, that’s the line that popped into my mind the first time I ate a Nathan’s hotdog. We were at the Miami airport, tired and hungry, waiting to take the flight to Tampa, Florida. There were only three food outlet options, but one look at the “Nathan’s famous hotdog” stand and it immediately conjured up these tantalizing images – a juicy frankfurter, adorned with fried onions, two or three thin slices of tomato, some fresh green lettuce, and perhaps a bit of mustard and chilli. But alas it was not to be. My delusions of grandeur came to an abrupt halt the second they called my order number. My hotdog was ready before I could say “Texan ranger”. I sat down at the table and opened the neat and good looking box my ‘cheese dog’ was packed in.
The look of disappointment on my face was tangible. There in front of me was a dry hot dog roll with a frankfurter, or vienna as we say in South Africa, and instead of a good old slice of cheese on top or an actual cheese frankfurter like I expected, the cheese had been relegated to some weird processed cheese sauce that effectively drowned the frankfurter.
At a cost of around $10 for the hotdog meal – the South African equivalent of around R80, I found the hotdog to be rather disappointing. I first heard about Nathan’s at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. A young lady was excitedly telling her dad that the canteen there had Nathan’s hotdogs and she was doing a sort of victory dance as she stood in the line ahead of me. Perhaps it was her excitement that had raised my expectation during that airport visit. Or perhaps it was the lingering memory of my mum’s special Friday night hotdogs - a juicy Vienna on a fresh buttered roll, topped with lightly fried onion, tomato, some lettuce, a hint of hot English mustard and some chillies for good measure.