The Fine Art of Draping the Cheese
I got to thinking after Milkbone suffered a bad case of the underwhelms because of Eazy Cheez. We love cheese on hot dogs. Almost across the board, I’m sure. Some of you might even dig the squeeze cheese. By and large I prefer to go the sliced or shredded cheese route with the kind assistance of a broiler.
But in my heart, back in my lasting hot dog memory, there’s one cheese dog that will always have its thumb on the scale.
Joe and Nemo’s was a Boston-area chain that started in the early 1900s and thrived for decades. (An effort to revive it a couple years back apparently failed.) The only one I ever visited was the stand down at Nantasket Beach, where I mis-spent many youthful summer nights. We’d drive down, hit the arcades, walk the seawall trying quite unsuccessfully to get girls to talk to us and, before the night was over, hit Joe and Nemo’s for a hot dog.
Memory is imperfect. As good as I believe the dogs down there tasted, they probably weren’t anything incredible. A grey-water dog that you’d slather with green relish and onions that had sat in open containers on the counter all day. I’m sure the flies enjoyed them. But going to Joe and Nemo’s was all about the cheese dog. There, memory is perfect. That average hot dog and a slice of very average American cheese…..
The first time I saw it happen, I was stunned. I knew right away that it wasn’t something everyone could do. It took practice. It took the endless repetition that comes with cranking out one hundred cheese dogs a day. It was about timing, understanding, and Art.
The counterman would take the slice of cheese by one corner. Just the slightest amount of cheese, pinched precisely between the thumb and forefinger, held in the exact spot he’d learned was the right one. And he would dip the cheese into the steamy grey water, the dog held down close, prepped and ready to receive. You could see the cheese surrendering to the heat, changing, morphing–elevating.
And then, miracle to behold, with one deft move, so smooth and graceful, so very practiced, so full of that Art, the counterman would drape the cheese, now suspended perfectly between solid and liquid, down the length of the dog. No overflow. No underflow. The dog, blanketed in white, snuggled in like a baby and handed across the counter to you.
You did not put anything on the cheese dog.
You did not dare.
You had just witnessed a perfect moment. The perfect cheese dog.
And no other dog would ever take its place.