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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: The cure for condiment fever

In this June 9, 2015 file photo, a young fan eats a hot dog before a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros, in Chicago. (DAVID BANKS / AP)
In this June 9, 2015 file photo, a young fan eats a hot dog before a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros, in Chicago. (DAVID BANKS / AP)

The unofficial start of summer arrives with a question.

To what extent can a hot dog bun be considered load bearing?

This becomes a relevant matter when some of those at your backyard Memorial Day gathering experience what is known as condimentia.

That is a condition that causes those afflicted to pile on so many toppings and seasonings that the frank in question risks a cascading loss of structural integrity.

The solution is obvious. Use fewer toppings and have a second dog after you have devoured the first one.

But do those suffering from condimentia heed such warnings? They do not.

They load on pickle relish, peppers, chili, sauerkraut and onions as if the principles of sound structural engineering did not apply to weenie world.

Some of this can be chalked up to inexperience. Children are notorious for overdressing their buns. That is why some families do not grant the privilege of doing it yourself until the child’s 18th birthday.

But it’s not just kids. Grown-ups who ought to know better have been seen applying such a copious quantity of toppings to their dogs that they come close to violating that adage, “Never attempt to eat anything bigger than your head.”

Now condimentia is an altogether different matter than, say, simply eating too many hot dogs. It’s about wanting it all and wanting it right now. Even if you would need to have jaws like a Jurassic predator to negotiate a bite.

Ever wondered why sometimes napkins are not up to the job and certain hot dog enthusiasts look as if they need to be hosed off? Condimentia could be the answer.

Of course, this is not the only hot dog issue. There are those whose feelings about the proper application of ketchup or mustard make some religious zealots seem like casual dilettantes by comparison.

And debates about the correct way to cook a hot dog have been around since back when they were all made of whatever got scraped off the slaughterhouse floor.

But overdoing it on the toppings isn’t really a mystery. In most cases, it’s a simple, the-more-the-better quest for flavor.

So try to be understanding. If you see someone holding a hot dog overflowing with a comical profusion of toppings, don’t judge. Just enjoy watching that person cock his head, this way and that, trying to find a way in.

“Thanks, but I’m actually still alive”

When it’s clear that someone doesn’t understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, do you regard it as a teaching moment or just keep quiet?

How would you rate INW thunderstorms?

A) Bodacious. B) Puny and mewling. C) Loud and proud. D) “Hold my beer while I tell you about storms on the Great Plains.” E) Just right. F) Other.

The best summer songs

You can decide for yourself which songs you would nominate for that designation. We might not agree. But your task here is to choose how the best summer songs make you feel. Here are your choices.

A) Reflective. B) Languid and bittersweet. C) Nostalgic. D) Like dancing. E) Full of thoughts about somewhere you used to live and someone you used to know. F) Wistful. G) Young. H) Frisky. I) Other.

The starting line

As you undoubtedly know, the official beginning of summer is still several weeks away. But that leaves open the question of just when you consider summer to have started.

Memorial Day weekend, of course, would be many people’s answer. It’s the classic milepost. But maybe you have something more specific in mind.

Perhaps you consider summer to be underway on the last day of school.

Or maybe it’s the first time you go out in your boat, dip your toe in a lake or attend the first wedding of the season.

Other unofficial starting points come to mind.

The first juicy bug to wind up in your mouth while you are on your bike.

The first tick to set up camp on your backside.

The first night in a sleeping bag.

The first time you speak to a raccoon in your “I’m not kidding” tone about leaving the vegetable garden alone.

The first lemonade you buy from the kids across the street.

Or you could go ahead and wait for the summer solstice. It won’t be long now.

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