My dad and I share an amazingly abiding affection for alliteration, and a complete intolerance to extreme heat. It breaks us down, nucleus by nucleus, disorienting us like whisker-less cats. He visited me the first summer I lived in
, and I recall watching him melt like a Dali clock as we sat at an outdoor bar. His glasses fogged up, just before sliding down his face. It was really quite something. And they took a while to do it, too. It was a very dramatic few minutes. New Orleans
I have the additional genetic jackpot of turning an alarming “emergency exit” red when overheated as well. It’s my body’s defense mechanism, much like a lizard that greens itself to match the leaf upon which it sits in order to avoid certain death. I am the warning sign for everyone else. One look at my unsmiling, candy apple face, and the message to my species is clear: IT IS TOO FREAKING HOT HERE. TURN AROUND AND GO BACK, LIKE I WISH I HAD.
As the temp goes up, my activity level (which is already negligible) and sense of humor go down. Way. Way. Down. I stop talking. I move slowly. I drop things and refuse, REFUSE, to pick them up.
My insolent keys will learn their lesson after spending a night on the floor directly beneath the key hook.
, specifically the Valley, has been treated to an August meltdown. My pajamas are in the freezer, my body lotion is in the fridge. When Titanic was on the other night, the infamous “Iceberg Straight Ahead!” moment caused me to think: I wish. And that’s not great, you guys. Los Angeles
When it gets this hot in LA (again), we all have our own ways of coping with it. I have found that setting my car radio to an easy listening radio station with a name that is purposely misspelled to accommodate the call letters, is quite soothing. It’s a saunic 101 degrees-but I get in my car and vengefully crank the AC to MAX, with all the vents open and pointed directly at me like a never-to-be-seen magazine cover shoot. I sit there for a minute recovering from the 90 Rango seconds it took me to get from my apartment to my car. I turn on my radio and am thoroughly unbothered by the Sinead O’Connor/Bryan Adams/Smokey Robinson lineup that follows. And that is exactly what I need right now: to be unbothered. Don’t ruffle my feathers today. And since he knows what’s good for him, Christopher Cross never does.
Times like these call for simplicity. These are simply not the days for Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska, forks and knives. I don’t want to think. In fact, I can’t. I’ve put my cerebral cortex in the freezer for safety.
Days this hot need something reliably satisfying, something you can eat with one hand, and in a few bites. Something tried and truly delicious. Something that enters your life fully assembled, unlike absolutely anything you will ever buy at Ikea, including plants somehow. I don’t know how they do it.
The dog days of hot summer call for hot dogs.
I had stood in the pulsing orange glow of The Wien Truck before, at Get Fed.
But on that day, I had a very specific mission involving a black and white cookie, and had to save it for another day.
And this weekend, that day came. It manifested itself on a Sherman Oaks stretch of Ventura Boulevard, a stone’s throw from the place to which we run when we desperately and suddenly need a basket chair or decorative wine rack. The place we all know as Cost Plus World Market.
Leave. Me. Alone, salmon-shaped salmon!
I started with the beef course. An all-beef dog on a steamed bun, topped with a downy snowdrift of cheddar cheese. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Simple things MUST be excellent. There’s nothing to hide behind, nothing to blame anything on. There’s no fall guy. And Tony, Sean, and Lola of The Wiendom don’t need one. The Wien Truck does it expertly. Their dogs are custom-made for them in a natural casing, so you’re guaranteed to get that lusty snap with every bite. And something you don’t hear everyday in LA: They’re Real.
The devil is in the delicious details (see that alliteration, Dad? Niiiiice. Skype high-five.) Steaming the bun makes it soft and luxurious, and grinding the Tang-bright cheddar cheese by hand with an old-school wheel grinder makes it feathery light without sacrificing flavor. No pre-packaged, pre-grated matchstick cheese here. And how dare you even suggest it. Go sit over there by Celery.
Then I moved on to the vegetable course-a veggie dog. Now, the glory of The Wien Truck’s veggie dog is in the texture. Trust me, I am the first person to blame a veggie anything for my problems. Not enough flavor. Gummy texture. Not filling. Parking tickets. So I set the highest bar possible, and ate it plain. Not a topping, not a condiment.
Pride goeth before a fall, because this veggie dog was really quite something. The CrispyCrunchy texture of the casing was an event in itself, and once you get passed that, you are treated to a most excellent tasty interior. Flavor! Texture! Filling! No Parking Ticket!
When I go back I will add the Polish sausage into my rotation, and then the turkey dog. Because I am thorough in my research. And consistently hungry.
So I am now a person who has eaten two hot dogs on a scorching Saturday on a sidewalk in the Valley, because they were that good. Adjust your idea of me accordingly. It was a Hot Dog Day Afternoon I will not soon forget. And neither will these guys.