I indulge in a hot dog, once, maybe twice a year. I need to be in the mood. Usually, when I am feeling springtime in the air for the first time, after the long, cold winter, a breath of typical Cape Cod raw, dampness, sun shining a bit of warmth on my face as I rake leaves off the flower beds and begin to think about planting seeds for my tiny vegetable and herb garden patch by the deck. This past Saturday was one of those days. With temperature hitting 60 degrees, bright blue sky, very little wind rendering the water on the Child's River so calm it looked like glass. On days like these, everyone, it seems, comes out of their houses as if finally emerging from a deep winter hibernation, neighbors walking dogs and sprucing up yards. It was a good day to get moving on all the ideas I have accumulated and written on a never ending to-do list: Clean gutters, fix shed ramp, put out deck furniture, *LAWN*, etc, etc. But all I ended up doing was going for a long walk and upon arriving back at home, inspected the tiny growth of the daffodil bulbs I planted last fall poking through the dirt along the driveway and swept the sand that all those muddy boots left from the three steps that lead into the house. I guess that was enough progress for the first beautiful, spring like day.
For all the meager progress on the yard and to-do list, I never thought ahead about dinner until I could smell brush burning coming from down the street which made me think about barbecues and summertime and hot dogs with blistering skins sizzling on the grill.
"Remember hot dog night?" Declan asked as he bit into his grilled dog, plain on a toasted bun, no condiments for him in spite of the array of mustards, relishes, ketchup and anything else you might imagine to dress up meat on a bun spread out on the table.
"We should bring that back."
On Tuesday nights when the kids were little and Rob worked a second job at the gym down the street, leaving me to shuttle Ava and Declan to ballet and Tae Kwan Do scheduled at the same time, my dad, would step in to assist and in return, I invited him for an early dinner with me and the kids featuring hot dogs browned in a cast iron skillet, buns warmed in the toaster oven and whatever I could scrounge up to go along with this fancy feast: frozen corn or peas microwaved with butter and salt, a salad made from left over greens, tomatoes and cucumber and if I was really organized, perhaps potatoes, cubed, with skins on, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for 30 minutes in a hot oven. "Grampa Dick" arrived during the mayhem of me yelling at the kids to get into their required uniforms, the dog barking and the hot dogs on the verge of burning. He announced himself with a knock on the door; as I waved to him to come in, he greeted me with, "How can I help?"
I poured glasses of milk and Grampa helped the kids serve their dogs, then he addressed his two hot dogs choosing from the various accouterments that were hastily tossed onto the table. Piccalili made with cabbage from Val's garden, French's Classic Yellow Mustard, Dijon and Nance's, ketchup for Ava, Vlassic dill pickle relish and if I was able to stash any away, Zucchini relish made the summer before with bread and butter pickling spices, red peppers and zucchini also from Val's garden. His technique: place all condiments inside the bun before topping them with the hot dog to secure all the additional tastes inside and insure that everything ends up in his mouth and not falling out onto his plate as he takes a bite. Genius. My dad's choices for dressing the hot dogs on his plate may have changed from week to week but without fail, every Tuesday night before he took his first bite, he would to declare to himself and anyone else who was listening: "This is so grand!"
I had forgotten how "grand" hot dog nights used to be. A visit from Grampa, a short meal spent together to catch up before heading out the door for the kids' activities. An easy dinner that satisfies everyone and if you are creative enough, week after week, no two hot dogs had to be the same: the combinations of condiments and dressings and sides are virtually endless. Just about anything goes with a hot dog. It's time to bring back hot dog night. So, if you come knocking on my door this Tuesday night, bring your appetite and get ready to dress up your hot dog. It's going to be a wonderfully grand night!