The Saudi Hot Dog Experience

A few weeks ago, my sophisticated food palate backslid, and I developed a true hankering for a chili dog. I could have gone to Fuddruckers and bought one with french fries and such, but I decided to make my own. Besides, the taste of Fuddruckers hot dogs is not that appealing. So, on my next trip to Tamimi’s (Safeway – seriously), I pushed my cart to the frozen food aisle and found the hot dogs.

For some reason, all hot dogs and packaged sausages are kept frozen. This alters the taste severely, and I – who am quite picky about hot dog taste to begin with – am really picky here in KSA. Frozen frankfurters do not yield themselves to a pleasurable epicurean experience. To make matters worse, it’s impossible to buy Hebrew National or Nathan’s hot dogs, which are about the best out there. Still, I thought, maybe if I selected a good quality beef hot dog and drowned it in enough canned chili, cheese, onions, and Crystal’s Hot Sauce, I might be able to approximate the flavor I missed and craved so badly.

As I neared the freezer case – one of those flat, open ones with packages stacked a foot deep, painted yellow, with chrome molding capping the front – I spied a Saudi woman in abaya, scarf, and veil. She herself didn’t capture my attention; she was as nameless and personless as most women you come across in public, rather her actions enthralled me. She was scooping package after package of hot dogs into her basket. She really seemed to be enjoying herself. She already had about ten packages in her cart, and she latched onto more. I edged up just enough to see what she was getting, and the green label on the package indicated it was an Eckridge package.

Great, I thought, an American brand that I know. I’d never eaten Eckridge hot dogs, but I’d eaten sausages from Eckridge; I cooked them on the grill quite often, in fact, and I always liked the flavor. Cool. Something with taste potential. The lady turned away to put more of the hot dog packages in her cart, which now numbered up around twenty, and I decided to take my opportunity to snatch a single frozen block of wieners. Just as I lifted them out of the case, my Saudi hot dog mentor turned back to snag some more. We locked gazes, and there was this wonderful, humorous twinkle in the lady’s eyes. I could almost see the smile beneath the veil; I could almost see who she was. “These are so good,” she told me. “They are so good.”

Caught by surprise that she spoke to me in public, I stammered out a few words about looking forward to trying them. I sure hope I smiled back.

The hot dogs? Well, they were not on the same level of a high quality Kosher dog, but she was right. They were good. Heck, by KSA standards, you could say they were so good.

Copyright 2007, Greg Hubbard.

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