Room for one more?

I’m not quite ashamed to say I watched the hot-dog eating contest on ESPN Wednesday. I’m especially grateful that the runner-up, Takeru Kobayashi, covered his mouth during his “reversal” in the final seconds, and spared a national audience that. Although he did take his final bow with vomit or something like it down the front of his shirt, and I notice he and the winner didn’t shake hands.

Competitive eating is all the rage these days among reporters looking for the last unexplored, non-sexual subculture safe for a family newspaper. I guess it rings all those obesity-epidemic bells with editors, but speaking as one who tuned in during the introduction of contestants, I can tell you more were skinny or average-size than fat. Both Joey Chestnut, the winner, and Kobayashi, the six-time defending champion, are guys I could easily knock down in a sumo bout. The trick to winning seems to be in technique, not capacity — how wide you can open your jaw, how much you can relax your throat muscles, how much you can suppress your gag reflex. Also, how much you like wet hot dogs; arrayed before each contestant was a battery of cups, presumably filled with water. Each dipped their dogs before stuffing it into the piehole, I suppose partly for lubrication and partly to collapse the bun. There are few things I enjoy in summer more than a good hot dog, but this was just vile. (And not because one of the sponsors was Heinz. KETCHUP DOES NOT BELONG ON HOT DOGS. There will be no further discussion.)

You’d think a place like Michigan would be the cradle of competitive-eating stars, but I guess not. One of my favorite Jim Harrison lines: “Only in the Midwest is overeating seen as heroic.”

I fished almonds out of a bag of granola while Alan peeped through his fingers. I kept expecting something like the 2006 Preakness. But Kobayashi thoughtfully covered his mouth.

The older I get, the less I overeat, which is sometimes hard to reconcile with my size, but believe me, it’s true. And it’s not because I’m getting the middle-aged heartburn thing, either; I still can eat pretty much anything I want without paying a price in anything but thigh circumference. Maybe it has to do with the gradual ebbing of the hormonal tide. I’ve yet to meet a man who can fully understand what it’s like to be female and in the grip of a PMS-induced potato-chip destruction mission. (I always say, “You know how your dick makes you do stupid things? It’s like that.”) I hope it has to do with refinement, with being happy with a little quality rather than a lot of crap, but that might not be it, either. In the long run, it might just be the beginning of the downhill slide toward the Earlybird Special. All the things our bodies do to embarrass us — sweat, exude, crave — diminish with age, or are transmogrified into one area (hair sprouting in places it doesn’t belong). Say what you will about inappropriate sexual urges, but at least it’s proof you’re alive.

You ever notice how many contemporary libido scolds get that way in their 40s? Laura Schlessinger plowed a wide swath in her well-photographed youth, then decided it was her mission in life to condemn all younger women who did the same. The blood cools, and the memories of what it was like to be 25 — they fly right out the window.

Speaking of hormones, I was talking to someone at a party last week, another ex-newsie, who asked if I ever missed it. I said the only thing I missed was the newsroom, and we both agreed there was no better place to work than a bullpen city room, back before fear and flop sweat took over the business. He told a funny story about his northern California paper, which had not one but two transsexuals-in-transition working there, and the uproar it caused — mostly over the which-bathroom-do-you-use issue. He said one night he had to phone in a story, late, and the dictation was taken by Michelle, formerly Mike. It all went well until he signed off with “thank you, sir” and unleashed a torrent of estrogen-induced recrimination about respect and honoring choices and blah blah blah. And all my friend wanted to do was point out that the hormones change everything but the voice, and he just forgot.

Good times.

Well, we seem to have gone to stream-of-consciousness today, haven’t we? Let’s blog it up a little:

A Chicago Tribune critic/blogger asks his colleagues, “If a movie ever made you walk out, what was it?” I don’t know if I ever have — once I’ve paid the money, I’ll sit through just about anything — but I do have a few aborted-rental movies, including “Zoolander” and “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.”

This one’s for the Detroiters — ever wonder what the original Pistons logo looked like? Mitch Harper dug up one from the days of the Zollner Pistons, the current club’s predecessor. That guy looks like he’s quick on his Chuck Taylors, eh? Hilarious.

One of the advantages of being French is that natural slimness, born of cigarettes, genetics and aerobic rudeness. The new French president prefers to maintain it with exercise, which leads his constituents to rise as one and shout, “Quel fromage!”

Back to work. Have a great weekend.

Posted at 9:08 am in Movies, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

44 responses to “Room for one more?”

  1. harry near indy said on July 6, 2007 at 9:19 am

    nancy, you said:

    You ever notice how many contemporary libido scolds get that way in their 40s? Laura Schlessinger plowed a wide swath in her well-photographed youth, then decided it was her mission in life to condemn all younger women who did the same. The blood cools, and the memories of what it was like to be 25 — they fly right out the window.

    also, donna rice, iirc her name, the woman with whom gary hart was involved in 1987. the disclosure of that affair probably cost him the democratic nomination for president in 1988. the last time i heard about her, she was crusading against internet porn.

    somewhat related, btw, was the change of whitaker chambers from a communist true believer to a christian true believer, and the change of david horowitz from a leftist hater to a rightist hater.

    it seems these people don’t change the amount of effort they put into things; they just change the direction — usually 180 degrees.

    as a philosopher once said: “hate is not the opposite of love — indifference is.”

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  2. harry near indy said on July 6, 2007 at 9:20 am


    in a way, it’s kind of funny.

    in another way, it’s kind of sad.

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  3. Shannon said on July 6, 2007 at 9:25 am

    The only movie I’ve ever walked out on was As Good as it Gets. Wonderful reviews, dead boring.

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  4. nancy said on July 6, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Harry, thanks for the reminder on Donna Rice. One minute she’s canoodling with a married man, the next she’s shocked shocked to find pornography on the internet.

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  5. ashley said on July 6, 2007 at 9:36 am

    There’s a great “King of the Hill” episode about “competitive eating”. I bet they have groupies. Attractive, but mentally unstable groupies.

    One of the lines was “it’s not Roman rules, so whatever you do, don’t vomit“. I guess Kobayashi would have been DQ’d in the Arlen eat-off.

    “…how wide you can open your jaw, how much you can relax your throat muscles, how much you can suppress your gag reflex.” Uh, Nance, there’s…oh, nevermind.

    Don’t forget, Heinz makes mustard and relish, too.

    “You know how your dick makes you do stupid things? It’s like that.” A friend once told me, and yes, I was living in New Orleans at the time: “Your dick takes you places I wouldn’t go with a gun”.

    Da wife walked out on “Man Bites Dog”. I haven’t walked out on anything; I guess I’m just too damned cheap.

    The new French president prefers to maintain it with exercise.” That’s because he has to. He’s not French, he’s Hungarian.

    Harry, don’t forget Linda Lovelace (see previous comment about ‘suppressing gag reflex’).

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  6. Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 9:50 am

    I walked out on Pee-Wee’s big adventure.

    I watched part of the hot dog thing, and it made me hungry for hot dogs.

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  7. Dave said on July 6, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Could not sit through Tommy, The Who movie directed by Ken Russell. And this when I was a hardcore rock fan. The only movie I ever walked out of but there’s several in recent times that I know renting the DVD would be a waste of good money. Ben Stiller? I don’t get it. Some of the Will Ferrell movies like Anchorman? That’s not funny.

    I think we’re blessed that Laura Schlessinger seems to be past her prime and not all over the radio anymore but when I think of some of her replacements, maybe not.

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  8. Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Big Adventure.

    The queen of the capital letter is asleep today, apparently.

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  9. Connie said on July 6, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Wy do men give pet names to their dicks? You wouldn’t want a stranger making all your decisions for you.

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  10. Connie said on July 6, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Movie I’ve walked outon ? Anyone remember “Barry Lyndon”? Beautiful epic. When the screen went black we sighed with relief. Then up flashed the words: “End of Part 1.” We left.

    My husband, then boyfriend, stood up halfway through “Network” and very loudly said, “I’m mad as hell, and I will wait for you in the lobby.”

    I love Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

    And the perfect hot dog? Ketchup, Cheez Whiz, and onions.

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  11. Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 11:13 am

    “I’m mad as hell, and I will wait for you in the lobby.”

    Reader, she married him.

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  12. derwood said on July 6, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I wanted to walk out during Reds. The most boring movie of all time.


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  13. Connie said on July 6, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Yes, Marcia, I did. 29 years in September.

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  14. Stephanie said on July 6, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Hi Nancy!

    I read this blog masterpiece every day…

    Movies I have walked out on or aborted include the two you mentioned. I was so dizzy halfway into “Fear and Loathing” that I had to turn it off. And I made it about ten minutes into “Zoolander.”

    I went to see “Sarafina” at a movie theater in Oak Park with my 75 year old Jewish Nana and she made us leave after the first half hour.

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  15. Mindy said on July 6, 2007 at 11:56 am

    I walked out on The Slugger’s Wife and Christmas Vacation. The latter brought with it the real meaning of the phrase, “so bad it wasn’t even funny.”

    In one of the Dirty Harry movies, Clint Eastwood snarls, “Only a communist puts ketchup on a hot dog.”

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  16. MarkH said on July 6, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Actually, Mindy, the line is, “nobody, and I mean NOBODY, puts ketchup on a hot dog!”. –SUDDEN IMPACT, 1983. Same move with the “make my day” line.

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  17. michaelG said on July 6, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Hot dogs get mustard, onions and, if desired, liberty cabbage. The corollary to “no ketchup on hot dogs” is “no mustard on hamburgers”. What is this “catsup” stuff I see here and there?

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  18. Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Mmm. I’m going over to michaelG’s to get me one of them.

    Hey, I’m totally off-topic here. I don’t know if any of you flocked over to Columbus Parent to look for me, but I’ve already taken my posts and gone home.

    I was kind of excited about blogging for a real publication, and doing it more anonymously was a definite plus, but the group blog turned me off.

    Not that my stuff is all that, but I can’t have it mingling in a group blog with the likes of
    This, or this.

    I mean, dear God. I can’t believe a publication would accept this as content, even from amateurs.

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  19. Marcia said on July 6, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    (Those links go to the This Week Family Connection blog, which is the same thing as the Columbus Parent blog. Go on, you know you want to cringe.)

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  20. Ricardo said on July 6, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    If someone wants to make a lot of money, open a coney island hot dog joint in the greater Los Angeles area. There is Pinks, in Hollywood, a lot of Chicago style joints, and Wienerschnitzel chain(used to be Der Wienerschnitzel to the annoyance of German scholars that preferred the correct Das). None of these can compare with a coney dog like one from the Lafayette Coney Island. Whoever did this would clean up, especially if you are open 24 hours and have a branch in Las Vegas.

    While you are at it, open a few White Castle out here too. The supermarket frozen ones are awful. Some places have sliders, but they aren’t the same. I could eat ’em by the sack!

    You could leave out the Deep Sea Sandwich at the western Porcelain Room. I always maintained that White Castle couldn’t legally call it a Fish Sandwich. Mmmm, maybe have a combination, like the new Long John Silver/A&W/KFC resteraunts.

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  21. MaryC said on July 6, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    You ever notice how many contemporary libido scolds get that way in their 40s?

    Another one — Dawn Eden, former groupie, now a born-again virgin. I’m not sure if she’s 40 yet but she must be close to it.

    She was the NY Post copy editor who got fired for re-writing a reporter’s story to meet her own pro-life POV. She’s currently hitting the lecture tour with a book on the joys of chastity.

    Whenever I see her in full finger-wagging mode, I can’t help thinking “You had your fun but no-one else is supposed to?”

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  22. czucky Dimes said on July 6, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Where did I (oh where was it?) go so wrong? I live right, I work hard, I treat everybody right, I don’t trump my partner’s ace, and always lift the seat when I go. AND I LOVE KETCHUP ON HOT DOGS. dammit

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  23. ashley said on July 6, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    My technique with the frozen white castles was to quickly run them under some running water, and cover with a paper towel. That almost got the right consistency of the bun.

    But Ricardo, you don’t get to complain about any fast food at all. Ever. It’s not fair.

    You have In-N-Out.

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  24. Eric Zorn said on July 6, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    There is no “why” to this decree about ketchup– most people agree that fresh tomatoes on a hotdog are fine eatin’ — and pressing the matter only seems to bring out the self-satisfied truculence among those who have adopted this pet prejudice.
    It happens that lots of people (though not me, actually) enjoy the tangy, tomatoey taste of ketchup on hotdogs (and other meats). Kids especially, probably because of the sweetness. Enough people like it that most ballparks — every ballpark I’ve ever been in — offer ketchup right alongside mustard near the hotdog stand. Perhaps ketchup users like the flavor on its own. Perhaps they like the way in enhances or changes or masks the flavor of the meat…same reason anyone puts ketchup on anything. And/or the same reason people put mustard, celery salt or cheese on their hotdogs.
    So it’s not the least bit odd. And even if someone has a taste for hotdog condiments that was genuinely odd (as opposed to utterly mainstream) such as butter pats or powdered Tang, why would anyone waste even half a second thinking about it? Issuing a decree banning it? This preoccupation somehave with banning ketchup on hotdogs strikes me as strange attempt to impose one’s own tastes on others in a way that can confer no possible advantage to anyone.
    So I offer this challenge: Why, aside from the fact that some consider it conventional wisdom, is ketchup on a hotdog a bad thing? What makes it objectively worse than, say, sauerkraut?
    And beyond that, why attempt to convert others to this view? Why would it matter to anyone what someone else puts on his/her dog?
    You don’t own mustard stock, do you?

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  25. nancy said on July 6, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    This Zorn — he thinks he’s sooooo smart.

    All I can tell you are the Truths I Believe:

    1) Mustard belongs on hot dogs, and NOT on hamburgers; and
    2) Ketchup belongs on hamburgers, and NOT on hot dogs.
    3) Onions go well on both.
    4) Liberty cabbage is a bonus on a dog.

    That is all.

    Someday, Zorn, we’ll meet in Columbus, Ohio, and I’ll take you to the Red Door Tavern, and I’ll buy you Sally’s Hillbilly Cheeseburger — a half-inch slab of fried bologna with a slice of pepper cheese. Then we can reach the hand of brothership across the table of compromise.

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  26. basset said on July 6, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    far as I can remember the only time I’ve ever been to the Fort was a brief coffee and bladder stop during a drive from Detroit to Indy and then down to Greene County… pulled off the interstate, got turned around and ended up at the front gate of an abandoned-looking plant with “Zollner” over the door. dunno if it was the actual piston factory but it could have been.

    and at about the same time as the Zollner Pistons were in the league, the owner of the team now called the Denver Nuggets was about to name them the “Colorado Lark Buntings.”

    until more reasonable heads prevailed, that is.

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  27. Eric Zorn said on July 7, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Onions on hotdogs??? That’s a blasphemy! A disgrace! An insult to the meat, to the bun, to the eater, to all those in the vicinity, to society itself. Blanket rule — no onions on hotdogs!
    Or am I kidding?
    Do I actually like onions on hotdogs? Am I just yanking the condiment chain here?
    You’ll never know until we meet at the Red Door Tavern (but I promise you that I sincerely think any form of cabbage on a hot dog is an abomination…whatever liberty cabbage is. Did it used to be French cabbage?)
    I’ll be the guy wearing the Maize and Blue Michigan attire, and that won’t be ketchup all over my shirt, but blood.

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  28. Dorothy said on July 7, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Connie I laughed at your story about your husband’s announcement during “Network.” When I was dating my husband, we went out to dinner the night before I had my tonsils out (I was 17). He quietly sang “Happy Trails to you, until we EAT again…” after dinner was delivered. And yes, Mary, I married him still!

    What’s all the fuss? I eat my hot dogs bare naked. Bun + meat. That way I don’t have to worry about all that stuff you guys are debating. Call me crazy – God knows others have.

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  29. MarkH said on July 7, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Nancy! The Red Door Tevern! (sniff) How dare you try and make me homesick for Columbus (sniff)? Almost worked…

    Onions on hot dogs? (Brown) mustard on hamburgers? I say, yes.

    Ashley, you are correct about the way to eat frozen White Castles; paper towels keep the buns moist. But, they are not even close to fresh. I gave those up long ago. Expensive, too.

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  30. MarkH said on July 7, 2007 at 8:21 am

    TAVERN! Dang….

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  31. Connie said on July 7, 2007 at 9:06 am

    czucky, it’s not whether you lift the seat when you go, it’s whether you PUT IT BACK DOWN WHEN YOU ARE DONE!!!!!

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  32. Bob said on July 7, 2007 at 9:43 am

    I like mustard AND ketchup AND pickle relish on my hot dogs. Go ahead, cringe, barf, whatever. I ain’t apologizin’!

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  33. ashley said on July 7, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Ok…lemme just throw this out there.


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  34. MichaelG said on July 7, 2007 at 11:20 am

    I’ll assume Mr. Zorn is pulling my finger. There’s lots of other stuff to put on burgers and dogs. There used to be a place in Berkeley called Jerry’s Grossburgers. The buns were great, the burgers as moist as you could ever want. Their thing was to put lots of fried onions on the burger. The juice would run down your arms when you ate one of those things. Lord, they were great. There’s bacon and cheese and raw onions and ‘shrooms and more for burgers. I’ve even seen people put sprouts and avocado and other non-specific organic stuff on them. Paddy melts can be good. There’s cheese, chili and relish and more for dogs. Mayo, lettuce, special sauce, whatever. Imagination is the only limit. My feeling is the most important thing is the quality of the meat and the bun. The best are probably local or regional. For example here we have hot dogs made by an outfit called Zenner’s which is located somewhere in Oregon. There is also Morant’s over on Franklin Blvd. where they make their own along with many other kinds of sausages, sauerkraut, hams, bacon, etc. Burgers need some fat to be juicy and tasty. Don’t worry. It’ll cook out. Buns need to be firm and solid with or without sesame seeds, onions, poppy seeds or whatever. Not those mushy things that the supermarket sells. In the end, however, what’s really most important is the combination that floats your boat. Geez, it’s only 9:20AM and I’m ready to fire up the barbie. Oh, and Ashley, eat any good Polish sausages in Poland?

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  35. Ricardo said on July 7, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Ashley, you are right! In-N-Out have fries made from fresh potatoes, are open late, and have drive thru, also. White Castle fries are pretty lame.

    In-N-Out burgers are still inferior to those at Millers Bar, in Dearborn. When you see plates of sliced onions on the tables, you know you are in burger heaven. Millers obviously has the freshest meat obtainable. Big Boy had fresh meat in my youth. Now, there is only one Bob’s Big Boy left in the LA area I know of, and it is pathetic.

    Mayo on fries. If you are from Canada!

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  36. Marcia said on July 7, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Far be it from me to be a wet blanket, but the Red Door has been under new ownership for a while, and the quality is long gone, especially if you were a fan of the pies.

    Personally, I was not a fan of the hillbilly cheeseburger. I prefer my food without slime.

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  37. MichaelG said on July 7, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    I’ll second or third the In-N-Out motion. They’re the best fast food burger outlet around. Europeans put mayo on fries. My ex-wife (still kinda feels funny to say that) is European and lived for some years in Belgium where fries are said to have originated. I spent almost 30 years watching her put mayo on fries. Well, I mean,that’s not all I did for the last 30 years.

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  38. Kim said on July 7, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    Maybe I have been scrolling with waaaay too much abandon, but no one has mentioned celery salt, which would identify you as a True Chicagoan.

    Zorn — have you been to the Wiener’s Circle on Clark? All the condiments available, including the most electrifying shade of green relish this world has ever seen.

    Semi off-topic, I just returned from a party where actual Wisconsin brats were served. 1000 miles from their home, but yummmmmm.

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  39. Eric Zorn said on July 8, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Kim, I did mention celery salt above in the sentence two before I mentioned powdered Tang. The Wiener’s Circle is a very good hot dog stand, I agree, though it’s been a few years since I’ve strapped on the feed bag there … parking is tough in that area. I believe they quietly converted to making their fries in trans-fat-free oil a while back. That was news.

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  40. Kim said on July 9, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Aha. So you did; it was my mad, WI brat-fueled scrolling that did me in. Parking over there is like a lot that every so often disgorges a car, which gifts a lucky seeker with a spot. Haven’t been in many, many years and am sure I wouldn’t know the difference between a spud fried in t-f-f from lard.

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  41. LA mary said on July 9, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Ricardo, try the Oinkster in Eagle Rock. Great burgers and fries. Not cheap, but excellent. The pulled pork sandwich is good too. They make their own catsup and it’s delicious, and you get a little cup of aioli with your fries. There’s Tommy’s nearby if feel like going cheaper,

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  42. ashley said on July 10, 2007 at 8:41 am

    Yepper, I did have some good klobasy in Poland. They knows their stuffs.

    Actually, I don’t mind mayo with fries.

    I was asking about mayo on dogs. Anybody do that?

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  43. Marcia said on July 10, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I don’t know if they do, but they shouldn’t. Ew.

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  44. Scout said on July 10, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    I’ll have mine with mustard and relish, please. Sauerkraut occassionally. Chili and/or nacho cheese if I’m PMS-ing. (Goes nicely with that whole bag of chips I’ll also be compelled to consume.)

    The movie that turned me off within the first five minutes was “Natural Born Killers.” Luckily it was a video, so I was able to turn IT off.

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