“What’s wrong with ketchup on hot dogs?”

While passing through Chicago’s O’Hare airport late last year, we stopped for a quick bite to eat in between flights. While waiting to order her hot dog, The Five-Year-Old was quite disturbed to read the following sign.


“What’s wrong with ketchup on hot dogs?” The Five-Year-Old wanted to know.

The Five-Year-Old feels very strongly about ketchup on hot dogs. She simply won’t eat them any other way. As we had a very long flight ahead of us, I was inclined to let her have it, but as Daddyo would be the one to have to fight off the irate and offended Chicagoans all around us, I decided to let him handle the issue.

He chose to outsource the ketchup on hot dogs issue as well, and used his iPhone to dig up an interview with President Obama in which the topic of ketchup on hot dogs had come up. “You shouldn’t put ketchup on your hot dog,” President Obama told CBS in 2011 — and by extension, The Five-Year-Old.

According to the experts Daddyo consulted, the problem with commercially manufactured ketchup is that they include too much sugar. Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope asserts that the sweetness overpowers the flavor of the hot dogs.

The Five-Year-Old was aghast. “But who would want to eat a hot dog without ketchup?”

Apparently everyone in Chicago, where the only acceptable condiments for a hot dog are mustard, relish, chopped onion, sliced tomato, a kosher pickle spear, and celery salt.

The Five-Year-Old, disgustedly: “Why do I have to use mustard? I hate mustard.”

Daddyo, comfortingly: “Don’t worry, it’s only a rule for people over the age of 18.”

The Five-Year-Old, defiantly: “I’ll tell President Obama that when I turn 18, I’ll still put ketchup on my hot dog. Will that get me arrested?”

Daddyo, curiously: “If it would get you arrested, would you still do it?”

The Five-Year-Old, determinedly: “Yep.”

Daddyo: “Wow. That’s conviction.”

Needless to say, The Five-Year-Old got her ketchup.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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2 Responses to “What’s wrong with ketchup on hot dogs?”

  1. pkhpkhell says:

    Sport peppers and cucumber slices are also accepted hot dog toppings (thought not all hot dog places have cucumber).

    I learned long ago not to order ketchup on my hot dogs — but I always get some ketchup packets so that I can secretly eat them at maximum deliciousness.


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