Cordova Chronicles: Get your red-hot doggies

Main Street in Cordova on July 4, there’s free grilled Copper River salmon

Vin Scully began advertising the famous Farmer John Dodger Dogs when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Photo by Farmer John Dodger Dogs

Baseball season is upon us, and what would a trip to the ball park be without a hot dog?  From the tiny concessions stand beside Cordova’s mud-puddled Little League diamond to the expansive concourses of Dodger Stadium, lines form to purchase variations of this frankfurter encased a bun.

Writer/historian Jacques Barzun wrote: “Whoever would understand the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”

Whoever would understand America’s culinary habits better know what it means when vendors pass by hollering: “Hot dogs! Hot dogs! Get your red-hot doggies right here!”

Often called frankfurters, due to their late 1600s invention near a German city of obvious name, I bet you didn’t know they were also called “dachshunds” or “little-dogs” by creator Johann Georg Lahner.

Can you imagine a fan hollering back: “Give me four dachshunds with lots of mustard and onions”?

My love affair with hot dogs and baseball dates back to the mid-’50s, when the Brooklyn Dodgers were routinely being thumped by the cross-town New York Yankees. One of the young announcers doing the play-by-play on scratchy short-wave broadcasts heard all the way up in Alaska was Vin Scully.

When the Dodgers migrated to Los Angeles in 1959, It was his golden voice that made Farmer John Dodger Dogs sound like an epicurean delight, of which I have partaken in each of my five visits to their magnificent park in Chavez Ravine.

Did you know that major league baseball fans are predicted to eat more than 19 million hot dogs this year, and that Americans consume over 20 billion annually, which averages out to about 70 per person?

It should come as no surprise that the biggest hot dog day of the year is the Fourth of July, in which 150 million are chomped down. However, statisticians have obviously not walked Main Street in Cordova on Independence Day, where free grilled Copper River salmon (FishEx listed kings at a modest $79.95 per pound following the first 2018 gill-net opener) competes with the more traditional fare.

Yet what got me going on this Frankfurterfest was events in Texas over spring break this year.  Our son-in-law Scott is a born and bred Longhorn, and my wife and I met up with him, our daughter Heidi, and grandkids Huck and Liesl in west Texas during March.

I must say I found this area delightful. The temperatures were in the 70s during the day, and high 30s at night. The Alpine Avalanche, a local paper of intriguing name in a city of 6,000 at elevation 5,000 feet, posted this beguiling sidebar statistic on the front page of its March 8 edition: Rainfall Totals at Alpine Airport: 2018 — 0.02 inches, March — 0.00 inches. My suggestion for similar stats in the Cordova Times was met with skepticism. None of us empty overflowing rain gauges often enough to keep accurate data.

We spent four days at a lovely adobe VRBO, circa 1928, in Ft. Davis, population 1,200. Birds chirped every morning, people waved and said “hi y’all.” One evening we enjoyed a shot of Who Hit Johnny on a patio beside a small bar in which a guitar-playing musician came out to play a couple songs for the kids as we watched the sun set on mountains off toward Mexico.

The menu on page 43 of the cookbook “250 ways to prepare MEAT” proposes “an ideal solution for guest problems when the budget is low.”
Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

The house had an amazing, eclectic assortment of reading material, and in the kitchen/dining area, I discovered this gem: 250 ways to prepare MEAT, by the Culinary Arts Institute, 1943.

There, on page 43, was an eye-catcher: Stuffed Crown Roast of Frankfurters. Ingredients: 20 frankfurters, 2 cups of sauerkraut. (It forgot to mention one strip of bacon for garnish.)

The directions: “Arrange frankfurters side by side, with curved side up. Using large needle and string, sew through all the frankfurters 1/2 inch from bottom and 1/2 inch from top.  Tie ends of top string together, bringing first and last frankfurter of the row together.  Repeat with bottom string. Stand frankfurters on end to form a crown.  (Concave side should be out.)  Fill center of crown with sauerkraut. Bake filled crown at 375 degrees about 20 minutes. Serves 10.”

Anyone who bought and savored king salmon following the first 12-hour Copper River opener on May 17, 2018, might want to consider this hot dog delight, described as “an ideal solution for guest problems when the budget is low,” for the follow-up menu.

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Dick Shellhorn, author, reporter, ref and grandpa, can be reached at shorn@gci.net. Shellhorn was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska, and has lived there his entire life. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 40 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and third place in 2017.