Because it was the cook’s day off and no food would be prepared, every Wednesday, we were sent away on a camp-wide cookout, but in cabin groups, not the whole camp together, though we were all out there somewhere. Just separately. Anyway, when we left off yesterday, I had reached the point in the story where I was about to reveal my secrets for selecting and preparing the perfect hot dog stick.
I can feel the air tingle with excitement, reminiscent of the Charles Dickens era, where readers raced to the docks to receive the latest chapter of his most recent novel, eager to learn whether Sydney Carton had eluded “Madame Guillotine.”
The wait is over, my friends. The hot dog stick story begins!
Now, I don’t mean to brag, but I know what I’m talking about here. For maximum results, the following essential information should be copied, memorized, printed – preferably “professionally” for ensured legibility – and laminated on a card, to be carried around in wallet or purse, arming the bearer with essential information, should there be some unexpected eventuality wherein hotdogs will, could, or might possibly be roasted over an open fire.
I’m talking indispensible hotdog stick-selecting wisdom. Which one should under no circumstances, in my opinion, ever be without.
You got that? Just so you know.
Recapping only slightly: We'll start with a question. If wood you are planning to burn – i.e., firewood – should be dead wood, then, ipso facto – if you don’t mind a little Latin in a cookout posting – the wood required for a successfully functioning hotdog stick needs to be…? Correct. Live wood. Why? Because, under no circumstances, do you want your hotdog stick to burn. You fashion your stick out of dead wood and you hold it over the flames, and very quickly, what you’re looking at is “firewood in our hand.” Which is as inadvisable as it sounds.
Hotdog sticks must be made from live wood. Live wood is not found on the ground. That’s where you find dead wood, meaning, wood that fell off the tree, and it died.
(It may actually have died first, and then fallen off the tree. I claim no great expertise in wood mortality.)
It cannot be overstated. When searching for a hotdog stick, do not look on the ground. Look on a tree.
Your ideal hotdog-stick in-waiting is long enough, so your hand won’t be suspended directly over the fire, thick enough around to support the weight of the hotdog, though no so thick that when you insert the stick, it disembowels the hotdog, meaning, it pushes all the hotdog’s food content out the other end, and what you’re left to eat is the casing.
When you find a branch that most closely fits the bill, you take out your hunting knife – everyone has a hunting knife – and you saw the branch off of the tree.
After amputating the branch, you then employ your hunting knife to scale the bark off of the stick, at least down to the point where the hotdog itself will be situated. This, theoretically at least, makes things marginally more sanitary, as the hotdog will have no contact with the bark, but will instead be impaled on the green, dewier inner surface of the branch, which has been insulated, by the protective bark, from bugs.
The final step in the process is to shape the bark-free end of the stick into a workable, though short of homicidally, sharp point.
You are now ready to insert your raw hotdog onto your now “hotdog-ready” hotdog stick. But before describing your possible options in this regard, I need to explain the stakes involved here. They are, let me say, substantial.
If you do not take adequate care appending your hotdog to your hotdog stick, more likely than not, sometime during the roasting process, the hotdog will become separated from the stick, and fall helplessly into the flames below, finding a home in the smoldering ashes of the campfire.
You do not want that to happen. The hotdog allotment has been frugally doled out by the camp, allowing for virtually no “second chances.” Therefore, if your hotdog falls in the fire, you will not get to eat.
You are willing to borrow a colleague’s sturdier hotdog stick, jab the now coal-black hotdog where it’s fallen, raise it from the inferno, and eat it, as is, a sooty morsel of shriveled charcoal.
This is why, despite the time and the bother, you want secure that hotdog to your hotdog stick to as tightly as you possibly can. And here’s how you do it.
The Double Point (or “Forked Stick”) Strategy *
* There will be a lucky few who will encounter the makings of a naturally constructed forked hotdog stick. For those – excuse me – lucky hotdogs, this is what you do.
Jab both points into the hotdog. (Don’t worry. It does not hurt the hotdogs, though I would not go as far as to say they like it.) The advantage of this two-pronged approach is that it provides for two points of attachment, stabilizing the hotdog-stick interface, and by so doing, reducing the likelihood of your dinner falling into the fire.
Next: The Single-Point Strategy
Your options here are three in number, the preference, a matter of taste and personal experience. Everyone has their favorite. Dissertations have been written on this issue, and fistfights have been known to break out, due to violent disagreement
Option Number One: Which is not called Option Number One, because it’s the most popular option, though, statistics on the matter being sorely lacking, it may very well be. The reason “Option Number One” is called “Option Number One” is because, when properly executed, the hotdog, in correct position on the stick, bears a striking resemblance to the number One.
“Option Number One” involves, and there’s no delicate way of putting this, the impalement of the hot dog. You take your stick, and you insert it through one end of the hotdog, dead center and you work the stick all the way up, until the point of the stick emerges from the other end. It is possible to work the stick only half way up, but this leaves the top half – the unimpaled half – of your hotdog vulnerable to detachment, and ultimate incineration. So it’s best to go all the way.
Note: You could also arrange the hotdog horizontally to the stick and jab it directly in the middle. But that would be crazy. By doing so, you are disturbing the infrastructural integrity of the hotdog, and chances are, both halves of it will fall into the fire. Plop. Plop.
“Option Number Two”: The “C.” Or “Half Moon”, if you will. For this option, “Step One” involves bending your hotdog into a “C”, or a half-moon, or, come to think of it, a meaty parenthesis. You then insert your stick into the “C”-bent hotdog, just below the end, and, after the point emerges, you slide it up to the bent-over top end, and repeat the inserting procedure up there. The result? As with the “Forked Stick” strategy – two points of insertion, less chance of disaster.
“Option Number Three”: The “S.” This is post-graduate hotdog stick maneuvering, involving, as it does, three points of insertion, for maximum protection. With your hotdog shaped into an “S”, you insert your stick into the hotdog at the bottom, driving it through the middle and out the top. When executed successfully (which generally means the hotdog doesn’t snap into three separate pieces), the “S” method often elicits applause.
I can see your eyes glazing over, so that’s enough for today. Though, I am certain you are grateful for this valuable information. Or will be when you’re camping. Tomorrow, I will reveal a story nobody knows about but me, and maybe one other guy, but he probably didn’t care enough to remember, because it wasn’t about him.
I am not proud of this. But I believe it’s therapeutic for me to finally cop to my less than admirable behavior.
Once on a cookout, as a counselor of a cabinful of six year-old boys…
I told a lie.
I will expose this untruth the next time we meet.