This popular meal is a favorite in America. I’m not a fan | CNN

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Editor’s Note: This is part of an occasional series, “I Just Don’t Get It,” a contrarian look at a popular person, thing, activity or cultural phenomenon.


It’s Memorial Day weekend, the start of summer in the US, which means it’s time for Americans to gather friends and family, light up the grill, and prepare some hot dogs.

However, I am not part of that group.

Despite the wide variety of festive foods available, hot dogs have never appealed to me. I’m not a vegetarian or a picky eater, and I’m not avoiding nitrates for health reasons. I simply do not enjoy them.

During the peak hot dog season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans consume approximately 7 billion hot dogs. This makes me an exception at best and possibly even an outlier. Who could possibly dislike hot dogs? It’s almost un-American, akin to not enjoying football or Dolly Parton.

I hold no grudge against hot dog enthusiasts, and I acknowledge their appeal. Hot dogs are convenient, cost-effective, easy to prepare, and can be personalized in numerous ways. They’re the ideal outdoor food: You can hold a hot dog in one hand and still have the other free for your drink of choice.

At the well-known Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the perennial champion Joey Chestnut once consumed 75 hot dogs in 10 minutes. I witnessed this event on TV, and it was somewhat distressing.

My aversion to hot dogs may stem from my childhood. According to my mother, when I was about a year old, she gave me a piece of hot dog to eat, and I choked. She had to turn me upside down and shake me until I coughed it out.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 04: Defending champion Joey Chestnut (C) competes in the 2023 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4, 2023 at Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The men's contest was postponed due to thunderstorms but later happened without spectators allowed into the

Since then, I refused to consume hot dogs. I wasn’t a fussy eater as a child and enjoyed various vegetables, except for beets, which I only grew to like much later. Hot dogs were the exception. Perhaps I carried some lasting hot dog-related trauma.

As I grew older, I no longer had to endure hot dogs at home. However, outside, the situation was different. Hot dogs were often served at friends’ birthday parties, and I didn’t want to be the odd one out sitting with just a few chips on an otherwise empty plate. I discovered that with enough ketchup, mustard, and relish, I could manage to eat a hot dog and then eagerly move on to the birthday cake.

Another challenge arose at baseball games. I love baseball for its traditional charm: the unhurried pace, the crowd’s excitement when a ball heads toward the warning track, and the thrill of stepping into the ballpark.

Yet, in the ’70s, when I was younger, ballparks didn’t offer a wide array of food. The vendors at Boston’s Fenway Park, where I attended many games, would call out “Fenway Franks! Get ya Fenway Franks heeaaah!” Although their sales pitch didn’t sway me, they also sold roasted peanuts, which became my snack of choice.

You might be wondering why it matters if someone at CNN doesn’t like hot dogs. It’s a valid question to ask.

We’ve all had times when we didn’t enjoy something that everyone else seemed to love. It can make you feel isolated and question your own tastes. You start to wonder, what’s wrong with me if everyone else likes hot dogs, but I don’t?

In these moments, you have a choice: pretend to like it and feel fake, or stay true to yourself even if it means going against the norm.

Hot dogs may not seem like a big deal, but imagine if you had to admit you didn’t like something more significant like democracy or true love. It takes courage to go against the popular opinion.

For years, I kept my dislike for hot dogs hidden to avoid awkward situations. But eventually, I decided to be honest about my feelings, even if it led to uncomfortable moments.

One summer, my honesty about hot dogs backfired when I was served hot dogs after exclaiming my dislike for them. I ate in silence to avoid any more awkwardness.

While I may not enjoy hot dogs, I have no issue with other similar foods like Italian sausages or chorizo. Each person has their preferences, and it’s okay to not like something even if it’s popular.

Brandon Griggs with a hot dog he ate last week to refresh his memory about why he doesn't like hot dogs.

In 2024, hot dogs remain a popular choice despite concerns about their health impact. There are even plant-based versions causing debates about whether a hot dog qualifies as a sandwich. Such discussions keep the topic interesting and diverse.

Out of curiosity and for research purposes, I decided to revisit my opinion on hot dogs by trying them again after several decades. Maybe my taste had changed over time.

With the help of my girlfriend’s dad, I cooked hot dogs and tasted them with an open mind. The experience was different from what I remembered, but it didn’t win me over entirely.

Trying hot dogs again helped me appreciate varying preferences. I may not be a fan, but I respect those who enjoy them. So, to all hot dog fans, have a fantastic Memorial Day celebration with your favorite treat!

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