Girls have a collection of chick flicks. Guys have Field of Dreams. Perhaps the only movie in which a fella can unashamedly admit to shedding a tear or two. And when Ray Kinsella’s brother in law shows up to foreclose on the farm towards the end of the movie, things get a little intense.
At this point, the film has undoubtedly reached its climax. All the known characters, dead and alive, good and evil, have essentially convened on or around the ballfield to await Ray’s decision on the farm. Stay or Sell? “People will come” advises Ray’s daughter Karin, which then prompts Terry’s articulate speech about baseball and its historic qualities which, if marketed correctly, would easily make Ray a first ballot Hall of Famer in the unique but lucrative niche business of harnessing the dead’s talents for one’s own personal gain (like in the cases of Elvis, the Beatles, etc). It would also provide Ray a way out from his more pressing financial woes.
But Ray’s at-the-time evil brother in-law isn’t having it. Evil bro-in-law shoves Karin off of the bleachers, who falls to the ground and lies motionless. What to do? Call an ambulance is Annie Kinsella’s first reaction.
“Annie wait,” says Ray, the tension building with each precious second passing. Ray’s appearance of nonchalance in the situation is anything but. Rather, it is faith. Faith that Dr. Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham (a real person, by the way) will forgo the remainder of his lifelong dream of playing in the big leagues and instead cross over that magical stone line, turn into an old geezer doctor and save Karin’s life. And Ray’s faith pays off.
And the scene that follows is absolute goosebump city. (<—- Click to watch)
Graham, played brilliantly by the late Burt Lancaster (the younger version of Graham is quite capably acted by Frank Whaley as well), saves Karin’s life by forcing out the hot dog which is lodged in her throat. And the hot dog, boys and girls, is what this post will be about.
The other day, my boss Andrew and I were out on the road coming back from a client meeting when he suggested that we make a quick detour through Rutt’s Hut on 417 River Road in Clifton, NJ. Andrew, a self proclaimed hot dog aficionado, insisted that my visit to Rutt’s Hutt would be time well spent. He was right.
While no aficionado of hot dogs myself, I’m no stranger to a good ol’ dog. When I was growing up, Dad quite regularly resorted to the practice of cooking up some juicily boiled dogs for dinner when Mom was out for the evening. To this day, The Box maintains a rigid adherence to Thuman’s Pork and Beef frankfurters, which he claims have the best “snap” of all supermarket available dogs. And I’m not scared to dive into a Grey’s Papaya after a late night in the City. Long story short, I know a good dog when I see one. And it’s not you, Toby! (Elana’s dog…We have our differences).
But Rutt’s was a totally unique experience. The scene inside is quite dated and bare. A take-out counter with some standing tables and extended window ledges to chow down at. My colleague Andrew shakes hands with who appears to be the owner (a friendly, blinged-out crucifix donning fellow named John) and orders me three particular kinds of dogs, all of which are more scorched than the next. “We gawt a rookie here?” John says, nodding his head in my direction.
First up is what Rutt’s calls “The Ripper.” The least scorched (by veggie oil) of the three that I had, it’s still more charred than any dog I’ve had in recent memory. Each chomp just about dislodges the skin entirely from the meat, so you are essentially eating two different foods with two totally different consistencies, simultaneously. But it’s ultimately a successful exploration in wiener cooking science.
Second is what is termed “The Weller” which is a more aggressively charred frank. In fact, it is so torched that the outer portions of the meat immediately beneath the skin have essentially been disintegrated into a thick crust of bacon-like flavor and texture. The nucleus is still meaty, however.
And then there is the “Creamator” (above) which, in addition to being fried in oil, appears like it has been shoved into electrical sockets, struck by lightning, and screamed at by six hundred fire breathing dragons. The entire diameter of the sausage has been completely, well, “creamated” into a semi-delicate shell of fat, salt and burn. And it’s pretty “dog”garn tasty, to be honest. It’s airy and crispy, like someone had rolled a few strips of bacon together and strategically placed them at the equator for a couple of months.
And as I successfully housed all the dogs in impressive time, and exited the establishment, I could have sworn John called out to me…”Hey Rookie…You were good.” Like baseball and, indeed, the masterpiece that is Field of Dreams, Rutt’s Hut Hot Dogs is an American classic that should be enjoyed by men everywhere. Ladies, on the other hand, just may not understand its message.
Overall Experience: The Big Lebowski