by Christopher Martin

A man of contradictions faces the fearsome weiner.

Our friend Dave has a prodigious appetite for all foods, especially foods that are interesting or unusual. There was a time when we first moved to Providence that we could count on Dave showing up with some strange, new food item at least once a week. Each one was proclaimed to be "the most amazing," whether it was star fruit, salmon ham, plantain (which he didn't know how to prepare but which he proclaimed "amazing" anyway), chicken feet, blood oranges, or that big weird thing that looked like a honeydew but tasted like a pear.

He once had some sort of goat cheese that received his stamp of approval ("Amazing!") and he invited me to partake of its distinctive aroma. I should have known better—I was literally still smelling that cheese an hour later. The scent had been imprinted into my sinuses. It was like a well-used sweat sock that had been left out in the rain for a few weeks and then worn in a one-hundred-mile marathon by a runner who had stuffed his sneakers with dog hair. Needless to say, I was not enticed into actually tasting this evil cheese.

Yet, despite his catholic tastes in food, Dave had never tried Rhode Island's local version of the hot dog. One Friday night when I got home from work, I called Dave to confirm our plans to go get gaggers.

Although we had made the plan the night before, Dave tried to back out, saying he'd spent $35 on sushi the previous evening and was watching his budget. I assured him weiners would not run him more than, say, 65 cents apiece (I was wrong—they were 95 cents). He thought that sounded reasonable so I picked him up at his apartment and brought him to the Olneyville NY System.

Now, I should add another word about Dave's eating habits. He's happy to put horrendous things like that goat cheese into his mouth, but will he eat a Big Mac? Of course not. You see, that would be disgusting. So I had my doubts that Dave would actually deign to eat hot weiners.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, when Dave did not bolt upon discovering what a gagger was. He had two and proclaimed them "good." I suspect this rather noncommittal review was based more upon the fact that he had not discovered them first than on anything else.

When I spoke to Dave a few weeks later he told me he had had second thoughts about the gaggers. He had described his experience to an acquaintance, who promptly expressed his/her disgust at the very thought.

Here's the conversation as I imagined it:

Incredulous friend: "You ate what?! Do you know what's in those things?!"

Dave, suddenly wary: "Well, I imagine they contain standard hot dog materials."

Friend: "Low-grade hot dog materials—the stuff they won't put into regular hot dogs! Those things are all noses and sphincters! And what do you suppose that meat sauce is made from?"

Dave: "Uh, ground beef?"

Friend: "Huh! If you're lucky! It's more likely made of ground-up cartilage and guts! And what's this 'up the arm' business?"

Dave: "Well, uh, the guy lines the buns up on his arm and throws the toppings on all at once..."

Friend: "Without gloves? On his dirty, greasy, sweaty arm?! Are you nuts?!!

Dave swore off hot weinies after that. The next time he and I were at a weinie joint (which happened to be Wein-O-Rama) he asked the wait person if he could get a grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar cheese. Receiving a blank look, he settled for the lowest of all cheeses (in his opinion), American.

Dave can be a damned fussy eater, and yet, I've seen him eat cow's hoof, meal worms, giant water bugs, three-month-old eggs, and a piece of crab claw he found on the beach.

Update

Dave started his own business in late 2004, hoping to capitalize on his love of weird food and concern for the environment. Can he stop the destruction of the rain forest, end world hunger, and provide us all with a cheap and delicious source of protein? Visit his Small Stock Foods website and decide for yourself.

Update

February 2008 was big for Dave—an article about him was published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, he was interviewed on The Colbert Report, and he presented a paper on entomophagy at a United Nations conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Does that mean we have to stop teasing him now?

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Johnston resident Christopher Martin is the curator of the website you are reading now. Christopher eats hot weiners and Big Macs, but he won't eat bugs.

This article last edited October 1, 2012

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