Maybe it’s the Chicago Cubs winning their opening game yesterday, or maybe it’s something else, but PG has been thinking about Chicago.
Mike Royko was a life-long resident of Chicago. He grew up in an apartment over a bar on Chicago’s Northwest side. His mother was Polish and his father, Ukrainian.
Royko wrote over 7,500 daily columns for three newspapers, The Chicago Daily News, The Chicago Sun-Times, and The Chicago Tribune. When PG lived in Chicago, it was a good newspaper town with two morning and two evening daily newspapers, not including The Chicago Daily Defender, which focused on Chicago’s large African-American community.
When Royko was growing up and to this day, Chicago has a wide variety of ethnic neighborhoods. For example:
- Pilsen – First, a Czech neighborhood, now the largest Mexican community in the Midwest.
- Avondale – Polish to the max. When PG lived in Chicago, it was the largest Polish city in the world with more Poles than Warsaw. One of the few places in the United States where you can hear Polish spoken on the streets.
- Lincoln Square – Germans
- Bridgeport – Irish. The home of five Irish Chicago mayors.
- Devon Avenue – Russian, Greek, Syrian, and Jewish communities plus a large and growing Indian population.
There are several more ethnic neighborhoods and Royko wrote about them all at one time or another.
Here’s an excerpt from a Royko column:
This simple little quiz is directed at those who love hot dogs. Not any hot dog, but the true, classic Chicago hot dog. The finest hot dog known to man.
Look at the following recipe and see if something is wrong. If so, what?
Chicago hot dog: Vienna beef hot dog, poppy seed bun, dill pickle, jalapeños, relish, mustard, ketchup. Place dog in bun. Cover with jalapeños, relish, mustard, and ketchup. Serve with dill pickle.
The flaws are so obvious that by now those with civilized, discriminating Chicago taste buds are snorting and sneering and flinging this shameful recipe to the floor and spitting on it.
It deserves nothing less.
But not merely because it includes ketchup and omits sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, and that miraculous dash of celery salt.
No, I won’t condemn anyone for putting ketchup on a hot dog. This is the land of the free. And if someone wants to put ketchup on a hot dog and actually eat the awful thing, that is their right.
It is also their right to put mayo or chocolate syrup or toenail clippings or cat hair on a hot dog.
Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians.
The crime is in referring to the above abomination as a “Chicago hot dog.”
And who did it?
Brace yourselves for a real shocker.
Some time ago, a hot dog recipe book was put together by the American Meat Institute, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, and other groups that promote the eating of dead animal flesh.
They got their recipes by calling the offices of United States senators. Being publicity freaks, most of the senators responded.
Most of the recipes are ridiculous, since most senators are ridiculous.
And this shameful recipe was contributed by Senator Carol Moseley-Braun.
Yes, Senator Moseley-Braun, who claims to be a Chicagoan, actually told them that a Chicago hot dog includes ketchup. And that it doesn’t require chopped onion or sliced tomatoes or celery salt.
I don’t know what could have possessed her to do such a thing. She is a liberal Democrat, so I can understand her deep yearning to seize our money and throw it hither and yon like so much political confetti. That’s part of the natural order of Washington creatures.
But to publicly state that you put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog? And overlook celery salt? It is said that power corrupts. I didn’t know that it brings on utter madness.
. . . .
Maurie Berman, who owns Superdawg on the Northwest Side, where I’ve been eating classic hot dogs for about 40 years: “I see more and more desecrations of the Chicago hot dog. Yes, we provide ketchup, but we have the customer defile it himself.
“We say, ‘Sir, the ketchup bottle is on the side. We’ll ask you to squirt that yourself.'”
John Miyares, who serves hot dogs at Irving’s near the Loyola University campus, says: “No ketchup, no kraut. That’s the law. But when you’re younger and your mom lets you put ketchup on the hot dog, you get used to it, I guess. The people about 35 and over, they get upset if you mention ketchup, especially if they’re born and raised here. And even more if they’re South Siders.
“But we get a lot of students from out of town, and they all want ketchup. Except if they’re from New York. They want steamed sauerkraut.”
Pat Carso, manager of Demon Dogs on the Mid-North Side, said: “You have to ask for it. And more people are asking. I don’t know why. Maybe parents think it is better for their kids. But we choose not to put it on. Even if they say ‘everything.’ In here, that does not include ketchup. We don’t even keep ketchup up front. We have a little bottle in the back if people ask for it.”
These men are keepers of the flame. They are cultural and culinary descendants of the short Greeks who used to take their pushcarts into every Chicago neighborhood and would have thumbed the eyeballs of anyone who dared ask for ketchup.
And here’s a brief excerpt from another Royko column, What’s Behind Daley’s Words?
The Daley in this column is Richard J. Daley, Mayor of Chicago for 21 years and one of the five Irish mayors of Chicago. Royko and Richard J. grew up in different Chicago ethnic neighborhoods and never got along.
Several theories have arisen as to what Mayor Daley really meant a few days ago when he said:
“If they don’t like it, they can kiss my ass.”
On the surface, it appeared that the mayor was merely admonishing those who would dare question the royal favors he has bestowed upon his sons, Prince Curly, Prince Larry, and Prince Moe.
But it can be a mistake to accept the superficial meaning of anything the mayor says.
The mayor can be a subtle man. And as Earl Bush, his press secretary, once put it after the mayor was quoted correctly:
“Don’t print what he said. Print what he meant.”
So many observers believe the true meaning of the mayor’s remarkable kissing invitation may be more than skin deep.
One theory is that he would like to become sort of the Blarney Stone of Chicago.
As the stone’s legend goes, if a person kisses Ireland’s famous Blarney Stone, which actually exists, he will be endowed with the gift of oratory.
And City Hall insiders have long known that the kind of kiss Daley suggested can result in the gift of wealth.
People from all over the world visit Blarney Castle so they can kiss the chunk of old limestone and thus become glib, convincing talkers.
So, too, might people flock to Chicago in hopes that kissing “The Daley” might bring them unearned wealth. Daley, or at least his bottom, might become one of the great tourist attractions of the nation.
The Blarney Stone has become part of the living language in such everyday phrases as “You’re giving me a lot of blarney.”
That could happen here, too. People who make easy money might someday be described as “really having the gift of the Daley bottom.”
That is one theory. Another, equally interesting, goes this way:
Throughout history, the loyal subjects of kings and other monarchs have usually shown their respect with a physical gesture of some sort.
In some places, it was merely a deep bow or a curtsy when the ruler showed up or departed.
Others, who were even more demanding, required that the subjects kneel or even crawl on all fours. (A few Chicago aldermen engage in this practice.)
In some kingdoms, those who approached the big man were expected to kiss his ring or the hem of his royal clothing.
Daley has already ruled Chicago for longer than most kings reigned in their countries.
At this point, many of his loyal subjects view him as more a monarch than an elected official. It seems obvious that he intends to pass the entire city on to his sons, which is a gesture worthy of a king.
So it would be only natural that he might feel the time has come when he is entitled to a gesture of respect and reverence that befits his royal position.
And what he suggested would be simply a variation of kissing a ring or a hand. Instead of kissing the royal hem, we would kiss the royal ham.
Although I have not read of any king expecting a kiss in precisely the area the mayor described, why not? One of the hallmarks of Chicago is that we do so many things in an original manner.
Here’s more Royko at Four by Royko