A Hot Dog Is the Pinnacle of Culinary Sophistication by Caleb Echterling

“Ever since the election, business has been in the toilet.” Ursula waved her arm toward the convention of empty seats that occupied the delicatessen’s interior. “That damn Lend Me a Fiver Party is killing us.”

“What’s the problem? You haven’t loaned them a fiver yet?”

“It’s Prime Minister Shitonabun. We always name a sandwich after the PM. Why would we change a successful marketing plan because of one stupid election? Plastered the new sandwich all over billboards after the election – Get your Shitonabun at Pico’s Deli. But look at this place. No one wants to eat shit on a bun.”

“Did you explain that the sandwich name doesn’t describe the ingredients?”

“Explain to who? Look around. You’re the only customer.”

Blake banged his fist into the counter. “What you need is industrial espionage. Steal ideas from your competitors. Restaurants are all going upscale to get the hipster foodies like me.”

Ursula jostled the hairnet that crowned her head. “Everyone in the neighborhood knows my face. I can’t go undercover. Sounds like a job for hired muscle. ” A finger jabbed Blake’s sternum. “But you gotta hit all the restaurants. Gastro-pubs, hot dog stands, gourmet, dives, everywhere.”


“Where’s the chutney bar? With your pedigree I assume there’s something exotic to put on my frankfurter.”

The man behind the cart seemed to have more arms than Vishnu as he turned meat on the grill, joined hot dogs and buns in holy matrimony, and bedded the newlyweds in a foilpaper wrapper. “Ketchup and mustard’s on the side car.” A thumb jerked toward rain barrel-sized red and yellow jugs.

“Are the condiments artesianal? With locally sourced ingredients?”

“I get it from a wholesaler in Woolloomooloo. You want a dog or not?”

Blake rubbed his chin and squinted at the dry-erase menu. He rocked from his heels to the balls of his feet while humming Wagner. “What kind of bun options do you have? Poppy seed? Or perhaps pumpernickel?”

The swarm of arms came to rest on two hips. “Hot dog buns. A bloke named Ahmed brings them in a truck. You want one or not?”

Blake glanced over his shoulder at the grumbling parade of construction workers, bike messengers, and office drones taxiing behind him. “Two medium-rare, with a hint of char.”

The man behind the cart pulled two wrinkled grubs from the steam box. “Six dollars.”

Blake doused his dogs in primary colors. A soft whistle seeped from his lips. “How the hell did this place get Australia’s first Michelin star?”


Caleb Echterling is currently performing in a one-person show that combines self-help strategies with insult comedy. He tweets funny fiction using the highly inventive handle @CalebEchterling. You can find more of his work at www.calebechterling.com.

Image: Rhonda K