It’s an age-old hot dog debate, hotly contested in the Frank Belt of downtown Chicago and other legacy beef towns. The rationale? “Ketchup smothers the flavor of the hot dog because ketchup makers add sugar to their products,” writes the Straight Dope, paraphrasing BBQ guru Mel Plotsky, former sales manager for the David Berg hot dog company in Chicago. “That takes the edge off the highly acidic tomatoes, but it takes the edge off everything else, too. Which is exactly why a lot of parents like it.”
If you have young kids in your life, you’ve probably witnessed the earliest signs of ketchup obsession firsthand. (I’ll never forget the day I saw my two-year-old nephew ignore a perfectly good plate of chicken nuggets as he forklifted gobs of raw ketchup into his mouth with his bare hands.) Ketchup is sugar paste that swallows up anything it touches, including sumptuous beef franks. Simply put: ketchup is kid’s stuff.
“We all have to grow up sometime.” says Janet Riley, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Wien” and former Council President, in a helpful etiquette video on the Council website. “Besides, legend has it that within the city limits of Chicago you can be arrested for such an offense.”
Should you be arrested for sullying a hot dog with sugar sauce? That’s up to the states. Should you be ashamed of yourself for doing so? That, friends, is between you, your conscience, and the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.