I was talking to my mom today, and she said how she didn’t want to read the Food section of the newspaper, as it was all about hot dogs, and she didn’t think she would ever eat another one of those again. She then mentioned how Dad and I loved her chili dogs when I was growing up.
It is indeed true. I’ve always been a fan of burgers more than hot dogs, but around the 4th of July, Mom would decide it was time for hot dogs. According to Dad, his diet when he was a young immigrant in New York City consisted of hot dogs and coffee. Apparently, Dad did not lose his love affair with the American staple when he moved to the West Coast.
I remember the vivid colors of the meal. The yellow mustard, the red ketchup, the green pickle relish and the green onions and the bowl of orange-tinted shredded cheese. I think I liked the toppings more than the hot dog itself!
There was a giant bowl of potato chips (the rippled kind, usually sour cream and onion flavored).
It was one of those fun weekend/holiday meals that was always a hit. Simple food, simple people, simply a good family memory.
As I’ve mentioned before, most of our restaurant visits as a family were to fast food places, but occasionally, we would go somewhere a bit nicer, or least to a place that had cloth napkins. The Red Chile was a family favorite. When we were in an Italian mood, we would head to Vito’s. I can’t determine if this place still exists as there are two restaurants, Vito’s and Vito’s Pizza, listed online in the L.A. area. The place we went to was a modest, family-run restaurant with the traditional red and white checkered tablecloths. I remember it being a pretty far drive, so we didn’t go very often, as Dad didn’t like to drive in unfamiliar areas that had heavy traffic. Mom loved the eggplant parmesan, while Dad usually had the meatball sandwich. I was very small, and there was no kid’s menu, so I munched on meatballs and garlic bread. (Wow, what a healthy dinner!)
On this one particular visit which stands out in my mind, I ordered a Coke as usual. It was a hot day and I eagerly peeled off the paper wrapping on the straw and took a big sip. It tasted very funny. I couldn’t quite identify it at first, but Dad noticed my wrinkled nose. I told my parents that my soda didn’t taste right. My mom thought I was just being picky. Dad offered to order me another one (probably to get me to stop whining about it) but Mom didn’t want to make a scene. I went into tantrum mode, refusing to drink the soda. At some point, we figured out it was the ice cubes! They must have been stored in an area with something made with lots of onions and they had absorbed the distinct flavor.
I received a new soda, without ice. Our Italian dining adventure went on without any further issues. I can’t remember when or why we stopped going to this particular restaurant, but I still have the fuzzy memories and that taste of onion-flavored Coke to savor.