March 26, 2020
Fred’s Hot Dogs, Chicago
Dear Mr. Pinkwater,
Thank you for the delightful essay, “Where is the Grease of Yesteryear?” from Pig Whistle, which I recently read in American Food Writing, edited by Molly O’Neill.
I’m a native Chicagoan, of not so tender years myself. Though I wasn’t my immigrant parents’ “anchor baby” I was born at Cook County Hospital. It’s been a matter of some inflated self-esteem, that I have tried to frequent every neighborhood, hot dog stand and fast food joint that I have ever come across in my own perigrinations about town, at least once. And though I can imagine Fred’s, I don’t seem to know it. Did you perhaps rename it “Fred’s” to protect the innocent, or to repay curmudgeonly Fred for his studied, Chicago blue-collar indifference: “Yeh. So What?”. Doesn’t matter, either way. I’m just curious which place and where it is or was located.
My house ain’t on fire, so there’s no need to jump up to your computer to send a reply. If you’re reading this about the time that I sent it on March 25, 2020, then you know that Fred may not be serving “food” now anyway.
I'm a fiction writer. I'd say that in my whole growing up in Chicago I had no more than five of the classic Chicago dog, with the sport peppers, pickle spear, green relish and all that muck. Probably fewer. Years later I became friends with a man who opened an authentic Chicago hot dog place near my home in New York state...I would drop in and order mine without the sausage, (a genuine Vienna, imported from Damen Avenue.) If there exists a Fred's Red Hots it's a coincidence, mine is made up. You seem to be someone of mature years, which surprises me, given your eating tendencies. Congratulations on your hearty constitution.