A LOT of people never eat hot dogs until they go to a baseball game. Here in Boston, baseball has been played by the Red Sox in Fenway Park for 77 summers. And for as long as anyone can remember, hot dogs known as Fenway Franks have been the staple diet there. It's about the only place in town where new collars and blue collars will sit together and eat the same all-American cuisine.
One might occasionally fortify a dog with a drink and peanuts. But the cozy emerald island of Fenway doesn't yield its secrets, doesn't glow with the glory of the national pastime, until you've heard the crack of wood against a 95-mph Roger Clemens fastball while adding catsup and mustard.
(And no, we're not going overboard. John Updike and others write about this kind of thing all the time.)
But the 1990s are here. People are eating less meat and more tofu. The fare at baseball parks around the league is changing, too. Just so long as the traditional ``pig in the blanket'' survives, we're all for gustatory progress. Even Fenway Park, surrounded by one of the yuppiest towns in the country, tried some changes in the menu a couple of years ago - adding the suddenly popular cheese-topped nachos as an option. But we were never tempted.
Still, the Red Sox might note on their current West Coast swing what's cooking at the Kingdome in Seattle: barbeque baby back ribs and chicken, with strawberry shortcake available for dessert. Watching the California Angels in Anaheim, one has options including sushi and fish tacos.
In Milwaukee, Brewers fans can buy chef salads on their way to the stadium bakery. What would Ty Cobb say? In Baltimore, Maryland crabcakes are in order. In the New York Met's Shea Stadium it's pizza rolls, fried chicken, and soft ``designer'' ice cream. Yankee Stadium, home of that other New York team, served raw clams for a brief period.
That experiment was as short-lived as one of George Steinbrenner's managers. We're glad. The austere DiMaggio would probably find the idea blasphemous.
Upscale in Fenway might be nice. But with a slim lead over Toronto at the beginning of August, we'd much rather see a good closing pitcher than a lightly buttered pasta.