A couple of weeks back, I met up with a friend of mine whose family just love my brownies – extra dark, moist,  thick and deep flavored.  She brought her youngest and only boy along – my hugest fan! He rates the brownies ten stars only because he has ten fingers but he wants to throw in a toe count so he could "properly" express his liking.  He is precocious, smart, hyperactive and, like most kids, has to have whatever they like “right now”.  He wasn’t pushy, oh no! He just comes up with “important” and urgent reasons why he needs what he fancies, piping up at every opportunity. 

His mom, out of exasperation, tried to make the boy understand that no means no; they don’t have spare money for “extras” at the moment; he can’t have everything all of the time; and he is better off than most.  To drive the lesson home, she asked me how much money I am carrying.  I have just enough to get from point A to B, extra for eats and emergency money.  I mentioned a pitiful amount, apparently.  The kid gets an allowance of forty bucks a day and a full lunchbox, when school is just a short walk from home.  Of course, he wouldn’t understand it if I tell him we met up so I could deliver their brownies and I can’t spend more money than what I was going to earn for the day!  Kids can't relate to something! ; )

So I told him the hotdog story.  Let me ask you, do you have a “status food”? By that I mean, foodstuff you or your parents couldn’t afford to buy way back when.  For us, it was hotdogs.  What???  Are you kidding me? Hotdogs? Those tender lengths of processed meat encased in tempting red, glistening with the good sweat of meat juice and rendered oil breaking through the slanted cuts which slightly “toasty” edges pucker up with the heat, rolling in the deep, err, grill (sorry, I can’t resist that line from Adele’s song hehe).   With a sizzle and a siren steam of cooking meat, a whiff of sodium in the air and the sweet-sour anticipation of ketchup and mustard tang, the red and white "All American" striped hotdog stands ringing the Araneta Coliseum called to us.  Oh yeah, kids can tell! 

We were in grade school at the time, and walking by the stands everyday on our way home is heart wrenching (by kids’ standards, everything and everyone else is larger than life).  We couldn’t afford hotdogs, because there were three of us.  I don’t remember how much one costs, but I remember being told it will be expensive to buy one for each of us so nobody got any.  It was all or nothing.

We bought some at the grocery I am sure, but there is something about eating a hotdog on a stick or a sandwich fresh off the stands, with everything on it.  Besides, hotdogs weren’t as "commonplace" then and definitely not considered healthy eats. When our ship came in (idiomatic expression wise) we ate hotdogs until the wanting waned and we developed more sophisticated tastes that came with the lifestyle upgrade. Hotdogs, I felt, was the stuffed meat of childhood. I shake my head now at remembering tears shed over them, the yearning and a look back at the stand to express the heartbreak of letting go.  Dramatic, much? 

These days, I like my hotdogs medium well, so I could poke the slight, telltale puff of skin to give off that delish smelling steam! We don’t cook hotdogs at home as often either.  It is costly again.  Not, mind you, because the visiting nephews et al can finish off a ton in one sitting but more likely that I, the food upgrade obsessed, have to plan endless permutations of toppings: relish, mustard, mayo, onions,  tomato ketchup, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, wasabi, bacon wrap, ham and egg, coleslaw and such   That’s just the sandwich variety. 

If it is plain fried hotdogs, I will eat it with rice, ketchup and hot sauce.
I did enjoy hotdogs and onions served at Ding’s, a diner/beer place tucked next to a tennis court housed in a perpetually dark and dismal old sports complex (Velayo’s, does this ring a bell hehehe) along Airport Road.  It’s not there anymore, Ding’s or the complex, but I remember it for the unusual (to me, back then) cookery: hotdog slices sautéed in a ketchup and oil redux with lots of onions.  

These days, I would rather go to S&R for the ninety-nine peso hotdog – all beef or Polish (according to, Polish dogs are a combination of beef and pork plus something to make it taste a tad different, like cheese maybe, so its an edgier hotdog.
At s&R, they give you three small condiment containers you can fill at the condiments station.  I like to pile everything on, like so, and eat with relish (that, too, and raw onions) and finesse! Not crammed into open maw but sliced like sushi bites hehehe. 

Anyway! I tell the kid the hotdog story with the happy ending, right? I also threw in a little life lesson in delayed gratification! We couldn’t have hotdogs off the stands, yes, but my parents would rather save the money for the more considerable pleasures of a sit down Chinese Lauriat (here's an example, yummm!) lunch or dinner on special Sundays, from soup to buchi (sesame seed covered sticky buns with sweet bean paste filling) at Sun Wah Food house in Manila.  We love their sweet and sour pork, Nido Soup (bird’s nest) and almond jelly dessert to bits!  Or barbecue chicken and Java rice with the signature sauce at Aristocrat’s in Roxas Boulevard.  Or crisp fried but not battered chicken (like Peking Duck) at Savoury in Escolta.  It’s an event to cap off a day of church, a stroll through Luneta/Rizal Park and a movie.
That’s a fair trade up, don’t you think? 

I think the boy saw the light.  That is, until a new gadget or gizmo triggers a new spate of relentless sleeve tugging and “mommy, please” pleas.

Sun Wah is still around albeit in a different location and the name reversed.  Savory Chicken had a revival with branches and mall food court stalls.   Aristocrat is nothing short of iconic, I’ll say! 

The moral of the story is: better things come to those who wait and now I’m angling for Wagyu steak! I’m due for an upgrade from Wagyu meatballs in pasta at 145˚ to man food portions I can savor at a leisurely pace – in two hours! Ach!

So from hotdogs to sausage to grilled burgers to steaks, there's always an upgrade to want, want, want.  What's yours?

P.S. The day we shopped at S&R, the store people were busy stocking and stacking candy! I got giddy! Coookiiiieeeees!  Trick or Treat fill’er ups! Wall to wall chocolates! I wanted the bag of assorted miniatures, teeny bars of chocolate with crackles, nuts, caramels, toffee, wafers, chocolate bits! I told my mom I will eat one miniature a day for 150 days - that’s how much candy there is in the huge pack.  She looked at me funny..and put the bag back. Moms can tell, you know, and I'm on some kinda diet ; )


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