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We're as American as . . . the Corn Dog!


Americans like to go out for French food, Thai food, German food, Mexican food, and Chinese. For some reason, we don't say "Chinese food." We just pick up "Chinese."

We also eat a lot of "American food" that really isn't, like apple pie. We say something is "as American as apple pie," but fruit pies date to 14th-century England. Pizza goes back even farther to early Mediterranean flatbreads and sauces. And while hamburgers and frankfurters -- or hot dogs -- may not trace directly to the cities of Hamburg and Frankfurt in Germany, they got their inspiration from German meat scraps tossed into a bun.

American Indians DID introduce the turkey, many kinds of peppers and beans, and corn, or maize. And corn brings us to a true American food -- quick and easy to prepare, simple to serve and eat, and, naturally, quite fattening.

It's the humble "corn dog," which was created at the Texas State Fair or the Cozy Dog Drive-in restaurant in Illinois, depending on which story you believe. To make one, you shove a stick into one end of your basic hot dog. Then you dredge the dog in cornmeal and dip it into a deep-fryer filled with hot oil until the hot dog is cooked and the batter golden brown. Here's where the stick comes in handy: to hold the hot and steaming corn dog.

This is certainly not haute cuisine. But Illinois thinks enough of it that the state has created a poster saluting "the Birthplace of the Corn Dog." It's a surreal image of a nurse, feeding mustard from a squeeze bottle to a pudgy corn dog that she's cradling in a blanket. Could this be the first salvo in a campaign to make -- not the turkey or the pumpkin -- but the greasy corn dog the official, all-American food?

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