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Monday, February 20, 2006


July 7, 2004

Summer is the slow season for TV. So, I have plenty of time to ponder important philosophical questions. My latest conundrum: why do hot dogs come in packs of 10, but buns in packs of eight?

Oh sure, it’s not exactly among the more well-known theoretical debates like whether the chicken or the egg came first. But, it’s a question I grapple with every time I have to decide whether to buy extra hot dogs or extra buns, with the hope that it will somehow all equal out.

Lucky for me, Unwrapped, on the Food Network, solved the mystery. Unlucky for you, you’ll have to keep reading to get the answer.

If you enjoy food and its little mysteries, you’ll enjoy Unwrapped. The show goes behind the scenes in company kitchens and factories to unearth details on how our favorite foods are made and packaged.

From Krispy Kreme doughnuts to Vlasic pickles, you get an up-close look at the ingredients and the cooking processes. Since I started watching, I’ve learned what’s in a Clark candy bar: peanut butter and molasses. I discovered how White Castle hamburgers get that special flavor: the burgers are steamed with the onions right on the bun. And I got to see which Wendy’s menu items never made it past research and development: burgers with grilled peppers and onions.

This week in honor of Independence Day, Unwrapped did a hot dog tour across America. Viewers got an inside peek at the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, as the drivers showed how they cut the mustard, literally. I learned some more useless trivia, in that the Weinermobile measures 24 hot dogs high and 60 hot dogs long. (Or 11 feet high and 27 feet long, for those of you who aren’t familiar with hot dog math.)

And did you know that O’Hare International Airport in Chicago sells the most hot dogs in America, more than 2 million a year? No. Me either.

Unwrapped not only goes behind the scenes of food manufacturing, it showcases nationwide food attractions. Where else can you see the world’s largest lollipop and the Toledo hot dog haven Tony Packo’s CafĂ©, made famous by M*A*S*H’s Max Klinger? Unwrapped is full of fun facts and will leave you hungry for more.

As for the answer to the aforementioned puzzler, the show claims the hot dog/bun inconsistency dates back to the original bun makers and hot dog producers. Hot dogs were originally purchased in groups up to 10 from butchers, but buns were baked in pans that could only hold eight rolls. The tradition has continued.

My theory is simpler: it’s so we’ll buy more hot dogs or more buns.

Unwrapped airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on the Food Network.

Originally published 7/7/04 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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