Thursday, March 25, 2004
Place: USS Enterprise. Subject: Hot Dogs.
By ROGER M. GRACE
“Computer!” the captain or one of the crew of the Starship Enterprise would bellow in the various “Star Trek” series, summoning the attention of a question-answering machine that would seldom fail to provide the information sought.
To tap into this technology, we journey to Stardate 45128.0. It’s late night. Captain Jean-Luc Picard is downing a hot dog splashed with chili and accompaniments, provided by the food replicator. It tastes just like the hot dogs they serve on Luros 5, with Tevrizian boren meat used instead of Earth beef.
Picard, sipping on some ale seized from the villainous planet Munger, and a bit tipsy, quizzes the computer about hot dogs.
“Computer!” he begins, predictably. “Tell me about hot dogs.”
“Objection,” it responds in a mechanical voice, a distinctively female one that sounds like that of Nurse Christine Chapel on the original Enterprise and that of Lwaxana Troi, mother of Counselor Deanna Troi on Picard’s Enterprise. The voice continues:
“Vague, overly broad, unduly burdensome—.”
“Damn!” Picard interjects. “I knew we shouldn’t have replaced lawyers with computers. Every time I ask a question these days I get an objection. Computer: disengage law program! Disengage the medical one, too. I don’t want to be psychoanalyzed or told I’ve had too much ale. And disengage olfactory program—I don’t want to hear that I have onions on my breadth.
This dialogue ensues:
COMPUTER: Law program shut down. Medical program shut down. Olfactory program shut down—thank goodness. You reek.
PICARD: Never mind that! Is it true that hot dogs are so named because they were originally made in primitive Earth civilizations with ground dog meat?
COMPUTER: Negative. A galaxy legend. Hot dogs were never comprised of dog meat. Immigrants from Germany, Earth, to America, Earth, in 19th Century, A.D.—pre-Stardate Earth Calendar System—brought with them knowledge of making sausages. One sausage was called “frankfurter.” Frankfurter is reputed to have been created in German city of Frankfurt in Earth Year 1487. German immigrants called frankfurter “little dog” or “dachshund.” Sausage is long and skinny, like German dog “dachshund.” Came to be known as “hot dog” among general populace. Term “hot dog” was used in college magazines in 1890s, Earth Calendar. Term “hot dog” appeared in Oxford English Dictionary in Earth Year 1900. Caution. Origin of sausage is disputed. People of Austria, Earth, claimed it was developed in city Americans called “Vienna,” actually named “Wien.” Hot dogs are also known as “wieners.”
COMPUTER: You already have my attention, Jean-Luc. Why don’t you call me Majel?
COMPUTER: Okay. I can take a hint. I know how it is between you and Guinan. But you don’t need to keep calling out “Computer!”
PICARD: Was the chili dog created in Chile, on Earth, or in the Chilian Sector of Delgadillo 4?
COMPUTER: Negative to both hypotheses. Chili dog is assumed to be creation of United States on Planet Earth. Precise origin unknown. Historians do say George Todoroff founded the establishment called “Jackson Coney Island” in 1914. Do not confuse with Coney Island amusement park in New York, Earth, where hot dogs had been sold since 1871 when German-American butcher Charles Feltman opened first stand. Todoroff’s stand was in City of Jackson, State of Michigan, Planet Earth, precise coordinates unknown. He took Coney Island hot dog—a frankfurter on bun with mustard and onions—and added chili sauce. Chili said to have been invented by Texans in late 1840s as trail food. Irony: there was a San Antonio Chili Stand at Chicago World’s Fair, known as “Columbian Exposition,” in 1893. Also at fair were hot dog vendors. Those attending bought food and ate it while walking. Possibility exists that one or more customers bought hot dog, also bought chili, applying latter ingredient to former.
Picard, still sipping ale, obtains his second chili dog from the replicator, and continues quizzing the computer.
PICARD: Computer! How did hot dogs come to be associated with baseball?
COMPUTER: Human! A German immigrant, Chris von der Ahe, was a saloon owner in City of St. Louis, State of Missouri, Planet Earth. After baseball games, spectators came to his bar and ordered beer. In Earth Year 1867, he purchased St. Louis Browns, ball team which later became the Baltimore Orioles. He charged entry fee of only 25 cents—equivalent to .12 Federation Credits—but made money on ballpark beer sales. Reputed to be first to sell hot dogs at baseball games, though information is not free from doubt. Irrelevancy: he organized first World Series.
PICARD: Computer! When and where were corn dogs invented?
COMPUTER: “Ugly bag of mostly water”! Corn dogs were invented in Texas and introduced at the State Fair there in 1942.
PICARD: Computer! When did hot dogs gain respectability on Earth as something more than a novelty food at fairs?
COMPUTER: Stop prefacing every question with “Computer!” On June 11 in Earth Year 1939, at their residence in Hyde Park, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, served England’s King George and the queen Nathan’s hot dogs. The king asked for seconds.
PICARD: Computer! Gads, do I have heartburn! What should I take?
COMPUTER: Two more chili dogs, extra chili, add Tabasco sauce, and have another pint of Mungerian ale.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company
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