Thursday, February 7, 2008

R.I.P. Bacon Dogs

I saw - and devoured - my very first bacon-wrapped hot dog three years ago, standing on the subway platform outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I was attending the 2004 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), one of the largest video game shows in the world. While riding the subway from our hotel down to the convention center, someone mentioned that they were looking forward to getting some after the show let out, and I replied that I'd never had one.

When my friend Andy, who was MyGamer's Editor In Chief at the time, heard this, he said in his wonderful Brit accent: "Ooooh... nevah had a bacon-wrapped hot dog? Fookin' unacceptable! We'll fix that directly, just you wait".

For those that have never had this particular delicacy, let me paint you a picture:

The proprietor, usually a middle-aged Mexican women or youngish man, wheels an improvised cart (the one outside the Staples Center was a converted wire grocery cart - the same kind you used to see elderly Russian babushikas wheeling back and forth to the Jewel supermarket) down the sidewalk, surrounded by a cloud of bluish, mouth-watering smoke. Some chant. Others let the aroma speak for itself. To its top is affixed a metal cookie sheet, under which one can see the blue flames of a cheap propane camp stove.

The bacon-wrapped tube steaks (sometimes referred to as "heart attack dogs", other times "those fucking delicious hot dog things" by my fellow E3 reporters) rest on the sheet, hissing and popping in lakes of bubbling bacon grease. You can smell them all the way from the front door of the convention center, a quarter of a mile away, I kid you not.

Then they top the thing with onions, mustard, tomatoes and a big, honkin' chili of some sort,and hand it to you with their bare, wrinkled brown hands. "Gloves? we don' need no steenkin' gloves!" Helpers (I suppose I should call them "accomplices" now) stand further down the block, and will run up with a cold soda or a bag of chips if you want them.

Perhaps it's because I went it college in Chicago, a town famed (and rightly so) for the quality of its meat-sicles, but I consider myself something of a gourmet when it comes to processed meat products packed in a casing. My expectations for this pork-wrapped, mutant street version were low, Andy's praise notwithstanding.

However, biting into my first bacon-wrapped hot dog, eyes rolling back with raw, animal pleasure as bacon juice, mustard, and God-only-knows what other fluids ran down my geek-approved black Alienware t-shirt, all the while packed cheek-to-jowl with hundreds of other gaming journalists, many of which had their own dogs clutched in their fists, all alike in our shared looks of orgiastic pleasure, made me love them. I was sure to seek out the vendors when I returned the following year, so I could do it all over again.

Given the questionable cooking practices these street vendors employ, I suppose it was only a matter of time until LA not only made them illegal, but also began to crack down on the vendors that sell them. Too bad, because I list my first "heart attack dog" as one of the best things about that E3 trip - and it was a very, very good trip. Too bad, as well, for the City of Angles, for as the LA Weekly rightly points out:

To get them, "I go to places like the 99 Cents Only store in Reseda or other Hispanic working-class neighborhoods in the Valley. Parks are good too. It's the only street food L.A. can really claim as its own," Lin adds. "It's illegal and yet it's a ubiquitous part of L.A. culture."
I wasn't able to attend E3 last year, but I was hoping to in 2008. If I end up going, I'm sure I'll have a blast, as usual, but I'm certainly going to miss getting my afternoon "heart attack fix". Too bad - I sort of liked feeling like Conan in his cinematic debut, waving his "lizard on a stick" and proclaiming "It's guud", only to have Subotai respond, "You have no idea how long it's been there!"

Good times. Thanks, Andy, for broadening my horizons and making me feel, even for a moment, like a proper barbarian.

Alas. R.I.P. bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

1 comment:

Starlit Rogue said...

I must say, they sound good. It's too bad that they can't sell them any more.