Revelations on the Physiology
of the Hot Dog
When I was in high school I had a very dear friend. This person shall remain nameless for the purpose of this article, and instead I will refer to her only as K. She was however a wonderful person, and although I have no idea where she is today, I am always thankful to have known her, and believe I am a better person for it.
This paper derived from one conversation we had over lunch one day back in high school. Back then, hot dogs were served at least once per week in the cafeteria. This friend of mine would get her hot dog and would always eat all but the last bite.
I watched this for a period of time without questioning it. Initially I had assumed she was simply full, as she was a small girl anyway, and I logically assumed she had a comparatively small appetite. The weeks passed, and I noticed that she always left the last bite, never any more, but never finishing the hot dog.
Finally one day after seeing her lay down that final morsel, I realized that it couldn't be that she was full, not with it occurring every time without fail. I decided I must know her reasons for not eating it. Once the question had fully matured in my mind it became a subject of great importance to me, something confounding that I was sure had an equally interesting answer, an answer which I knew I must discover.
So I asked her, "Why is it you always leave that last bite of hot dog?" Not knowing at the time that the answer to that question would be a topic that would haunt me for years to come.
Her simple reply was,"Because that's it's butt."
Now I admit, possible answers had come to mind in my thinking about this behavior, but this reason was not one of them. I had been thinking about it for some time prior to actually asking, and this possibility hadn't even been considered for what I feel is obvious reasons. While this was the answer to the question that had confounded me so, it was somehow inadequate, and in fact only served to pose additional questions regarding the anatomy of a hot dog, and the origination of such a belief. Those questions were put aside however, in favor of the chief question this response generated, how would one know they didn't accidentally start eating the hot dog butt first?
This of course was my immediate next question to her to which she replied equally simply, "Because you never start at it's butt."
Realizing I could not argue with such a position I accepted that response and never questioned her further on the subject. I have however pondered this conundrum periodically over the years. In fact it is a topic that my mind would return to with some regularity during times in which it wasn't otherwise occupied. Over the ensuing years, just shy of two decades now, I have actually devoted what is most likely a significant amount of thought to these questions and those two very simple answers. In that time I believe I have made some interesting deductions as to the anatomy and physiology of hot dogs. This common food, one which exists with such prominence in American culture, often maligned for it's ingredients even as it is beloved by children and sports enthusiasts everywhere. This food which you most likely thought you knew everything you needed to about actually has much more to it than you may have realized.
I first accepted the assumption that hot dogs do indeed have a butt, and therefore also have a head. I realize that this goes against common thinking, but I value the opinion and insight of the girl who originally introduced me to this fact. She was a highly intelligent individual not given to foolish thinking on other subjects and therefore I felt I could safely assume she was correct in her ideas on hot dog anatomy. I would merely expand on what she accepted as fact, and attempt to explore the scientific reasons behind it.
Whether you personally have a problem with consuming the hind quarters of such a creature is a matter of personal preference and will not be discussed here. Myself, I have no issue with it and find the butt of the hot dog to be no less tasteful than the head, or the remainder of the body in between.
What intrigued me the most of course was the fact that one never started eating a hot dog at the butt. In fact it wasn't just that one never did, but the idea was conferred that one wasn't capable of starting at the butt even if he tried.
I determined that there could be one of two reasons for this phenomenon. First it could be some unavoidable force of nature at work on a person's subconcious which, without their knowledge, actually caused them to orient a hot dog in such a way that they always began at the head. I considered this idea for a time, but could not determine a satisfactory explanation for it and as a result, dismissed it as a possibility.
That led me to further theorize that in reality the determination of which end of the hot dog was actually the butt was not made until the instant the first bite was taken. Prior to that point, either end of the hot dog had equal chance of being the butt. The hot dog itself had developed the physiological ability to assign the identity of it's parts at a time when that identity became critical.
That left me with determining what exactly would be the reason for this ability, what benefit would the hot dog gain by the development of this physical attribute?
The answer of course was simple, it's a defense mechanism. A hot dog, being a completely defenseless creature, unable to exert any influence whatsoever on it's own continued existence, instead accepted this fact and developed the ability to make the process of death as painless as possible. Rather than develop the ability to preserve it's own existence, which would have been a far more difficult and lengthy process, it instead developed the ability to end it's existence on it's own terms, with an absolute minimum of pain or suffering.
You see, should a hot dog be consumed butt first, it would be forced to endure a slow and obviously painful death. However by possessing the ability to force the predator to bite the head first it can therefore end it's life instantly.
Upon reaching this conclusion, one would think that the original question had be answered and finally after so much time I could feel comfortable putting the issue to rest. I soon found this was not the case, as new questions began to surface.
First I had to wonder why such a physiological adaptation would even be necessary. With the occasional exception of becoming a snack for a small child, hot dogs are rarely eaten "raw", that is to say straight from the package. They are normally cooked first. Sometimes they are simply boiled, often they are grilled, and sometimes they are microwaved. I've been known to deep fry them myself.
Surely these various means of preparation would result in the death of the hot dog long before the point of consumption. I realized however that this simply cannot be the case or else the need for the undetermined head/butt orientation ability would not have existed in the first place and therefore the ability itself would have never developed.
That leaves only the possibility that a hot dog is a far more resilient creature than we as humans have ever given it credit for. Quite possibility one of the most resilient creatures to have ever existed.
Consider what we can observe. Water boils at 212 degrees F, and a hot dog can survive in this environment for several minutes. That ability however pales in comparison to the other extremes it can withstand. Being roasted over open flames, to the point the skin actually blackens, surviving being submerged in 350 degree hot oil for 3-4 minutes. Most amazing of all of course is the ability to survive 60 seconds inside a microwave oven despite having it's body rupture in the process.
Indeed we have failed to give the lowly hot dog the credit it deserves. The ability to survive such harsh extremes is, I propose, unique in the animal kingdom. I would further propose than not only has the hot dog the ability to survive these conditions but it can do so without experiencing pain. Surely if the pain of being eaten were significant enough to drive the development of the defense mechanism of being able to reassign the functions of it's body, that it doubtlessly would have developed further abilities to prevent the experience of pain during the process of preparation prior to being eaten.
But despite the ability to survive this degree of external pressure, decapitation is apparently it's sole weakness, and this fact has been exploited by the hot dog itself to prevent it's own suffering. How then does it possess the ability to withstand being roasted alive without experiencing pain, while the act of being bitten in two apparently causes extreme anguish and physical suffering? This is a question which I lack the answer to at this time.
I am quite confident that further discoveries relating to the physical attributes, and perhaps even actual behavioral qualities as of yet unnoticed, remain locked inside the enigma of the hot dog. Hopefully my own theories which I have presented here will encourage others to join in this research and one day we may hope to fully understand the true nature of a hot dog.
As for my long lost friend K, I'm fairly positive she had no suspicion that her initial ideas on the subject of hot dog anatomy would be a topic that would hold such an interest with me for so long. Or that I would refer in my memories so often to that lunch we shared so many years ago.
I do look forward to one day meeting her again, for there are a few new questions I have that I require her input on. I am curious as to her opinions of vegetarian hot dogs, whether they too possess a butt, and if so whether she eats it. Being vegetable matter, I am inclined to believe they would lack physical similarities with their meat based relatives, but past experience with the misconceptions surrounding hot dogs keeps me from making a premature deduction.
I also wonder about the case of the foot long hot dog. In some instances the hot dog itself is a foot long, apparently being a giant race, perhaps a separate subspecies entirely, while in other cases only the bun is a foot long, while it actually contains two normal sized hot dogs. In the case of the latter, are there two butts? If so must a bite be removed in the middle to also avoid consuming the butt of the first dog in the bun?
These questions and others I cannot pursue without insight from K's perspective.
A Note To K:
If you happen upon this page, drop me a note. I've always been curious what became of you, I'm sure it was more than became of me. I've always kept a pack of hot dogs in the fridge and gas in the grill, just in case you ever happened by for lunch, for the sake of fond memories of a missed friend.