Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chow down

This woman is dressed like a hot dog.

She was selling them, too, outside the honky tonks along Printers Alley, because nothing says “I need a hotdog” like a pitcher of Bud Light and 15 renditions of Folsom Prison Blues.

No offense to this woman, of course, but when it comes to hot dogs, I go for the ones at I Dream of Weenie.

Surely everyone has the same question when eating hot dogs: What the hell am I eating? So I like the tofu version at this stand, which only leaves me thinking: What the hell am I eating? (I kid, I kid).

I Dream of Weenie is always jumping on warm days. The owner/hot dog chef Alisa Martin makes most toppings fresh – like pimeinto cheese or a salsa crudo in summer with hunks of fresh tomato and bits of garlic and basil tossed in olive oil. But my year-round, all-time favorite is the Rebel Yelp with jalapenos, red onion, mustard and chowchow.

Which brings me to chowchow.


Seriously what a great name. Saying chow once just isn’t enough.

Although it’s technically a relish, my dad’s family eats it like a sidedish -- served in bowls for scooping alongside everything including Thanksgiving turkey. I hated it as a kid, because the vinegar gives it that acquired adult-taste wang like mustard or coffee. But now I love the slightly crunchy, sweet/sour combo with the tiny nuggets of celery and mustard seeds. I see it as a Southern man's kimchi or chutney -- something extra when dinner needs a little spank of sass.

I also like chowchow's can-do attitude. My aunts have their favorite recipes, but when it comes down to it, you can pretty much throw in whatever vegetables you have hanging around. It's a sign of a well-run kitchen -- seasonal and without waste. Recession condiment!

I eat chowchow over eggs and toast, mixed with tuna for salad, and over black beans. I’ve been buying it lately from the Loveless Cafe. But I'm looking forward to making my own (maybe based on the recipe here) as the warmer weather soon brings in the vegetables.

Chowchow music: Murder in the City by the Avett Brothers (b/c I'd like to think they grew up with chowchow, too.)

No comments: