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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #133

Updated on April 19, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Not Today

I'm not going to specifically mention the virus; not today. I'm not going to talk about sheltering in place, or hardship, or doing without. Instead, just for today, I want to focus on a quotation by M.F.K. Fisher, an American food writer. Over her lifetime Fisher wrote 27 books, including a translation of The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin.

“People ask me: Why do you write about food? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way others do?

They ask it accusingly as if I were somehow gross, unfaithful to the honor of my craft.

The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it...and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied...and it is all one.

I tell about myself and how I ate bread on a lasting hillside or drank red wine in a room now blown to bits, and it happens without my willing it that I am telling too about the people with me then, and their other deeper needs for love and happiness.

There is food in the bowl, and more often than not, because of what honesty I have, there is nourishment in the heart, to feed the wilder, more insistent hunger. We must eat. If, in the face of that dread fact, we can find other nourishment, and tolerance and compassion for it, we'll be no less full of human dignity.

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. And that is my answer when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love?”
― M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me

Let's get started with today's mailbox. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

Are There Any Redeeming Values in Hot Dogs?

Tell me, is there any nutritional value in hot dogs??? Please tell me there is. I need some good news LOL.

hot dog with all the fixings
hot dog with all the fixings | Source

Oh Bill, the things I do for my friends. I’m not certain if I can find any redeeming qualities in hot dogs, but I’m making this up as I go along (no storyboard outline) so let’s see what happens.

First, just for fun, let’s find out how the American hot dog got its start. The concept of sausage is nothing new; it’s mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, but most people credit Germany in general and Frankfurt-am-Main specifically for the creation of the frankfurter. German-born immigrants to the New World brought their tastes and sausage-making skills with them. Some folklore states that the true hot dog was sold (along with rolls and sauerkraut) from a pushcart in New York City in the 1860s. A Coney Island hot dog stand opened a decade later. But my personal opinion is that hot dogs gained their infamy at one of several Expositions in the late 19th century (the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 or the St. Louis Exposition of 1904).

Did you know that there is a National Hot Dog and Sausage Council? (Nope, me neither). It was established in 1994 by the American Meat Institute. Not only do they serve as a source of information for consumers, but they also “conduct scientific research to benefit hot dog and sausage manufacturers.” They have grinded through (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself) several topics that have honestly kept me awake at night—how to properly eat a hot dog, hot dog etiquette, and is the hot dog a sandwich? A quick rundown on the answers is:

  • Hands only, never a knife and fork,
  • At least 5 bites to consume a hot dog (for a foot-long you are allowed 7 or more), and
  • No!

July is National Hot Dog Month and, believe it or not, there is a month-long planning guide

Now, Bill, you asked if hot dogs are nutritious (or at least, not bad for you). It depends on the hot dog. There’s no one specific recipe for what goes into one. On average a hot dog made with pork will be the highest in calories, a chicken or turkey dog will be the lowest in calories, and an all-beef or combination of meats dog will fall somewhere in the middle.

Just for you, I investigated the nutritional values of several well-known types of hot dogs. Here’s what I found:

Ballpark Beef Hot Dog
Hebrew National Beef Hot Dog, 97% fat-free
Jennie-O Turkey Frank
Oscar Mayer Fat Free Hot Dog
Total fat
16.0 g
1.0 g
5 g
0.3 g
35.0 mg
15.0 mg
25 mg
14.5 mg
550 mg
490 mg
370 mg
487 mg
300 mg
0 mg
0 mg
235.5 mg
Total carbohydrates
4 g
2 g
1 g
2.2 g

Aha! I think I've found your answer. The sodium is a bit troubling (especially when you add mustard, ketchup or pickle relish on top of that naked dog). The fat in the Ballpark Beef hotdog is not great, and there are little or no minerals. But look at the potassium! There's the sweet spot. Potassium is important for your blood pressure, nervous system, and heart. But don't use that as an excuse to put hot dogs in your daily diet. There are other sources of potassium that don't come with the additional baggage of sodium and fat (potatoes, beet greens, and bananas, for example).

So, don't make a habit of eating hot dogs, but know that you can enjoy an occasional dog and toppings without (too much) guilt.


Soup Add-Ins
Soup Add-Ins | Source

How to Make Canned Soup Taste Good

"Now what are your ideas on sprucing up canned soups. They are good but no ummpf."

Eric, that's a really good question. Canned soups are quick and inexpensive but sadly lacking in everything else (except for a hefty dose of sodium). Think of them as a blank canvas. Here are some ideas to liven up your canned soups and make them taste more like homemade:

  • Saute some onions and/or garlic: Low and slow is the way to go. Then deglaze the pan (a splash of wine will unstick all those caramelized yummy bits on the bottom of the pan).
  • Add protein: Leftover chicken or steak, some cooked diced ham or bacon or sausage (just a little—that soup is already salty). If you don't want to add meat think of what makes a bowl of ramen so yummy; a soft-cooked jammy egg could be just the thing.
  • More vegetables: This is a great place for leftover cooked veggies. If you are working with a creamed soup consider pureeing some vegetables to stir in. Cooked cauliflower, potatoes, winter squash or carrots would work really well.
  • Cheese: Sprinkle some cheese on top
  • Herbs: Fresh chives, thyme, or cilantro stirred in just before serving.
  • Spices: Your soup is probably salty enough, but what about simmering a bay leaf in there for a while (don't forget to remove it before serving). Depending on the flavor profile of the soup you could shake in some cumin or red pepper flakes.
  • Go green: Add some spinach or chopped kale or pesto.
  • Get zesty: A squirt of lemon juice or lemon zest could brighten up an otherwise flat soup.
  • Starchy things: Homemade croutons, crushed tortilla chips or oyster crackers.
  • Clean out the frig: got cooked beans or rice, a dollop of sour cream, or a splash of heavy cream? That might be just what you need to make that soup more like homemade.

Want some flavor combination suggestions (just to get your imagination firing)?

Type of Canned Soup
Suggested Add-Ins (in addition to sauteed onions)
Chicken noodle
Diced cooked chicken or turkey, dash of soy sauce, dried sage or a dash of poultry seasoning, extra vegetables (cooked carrots, peas), a scoop of cooked rice
Cream of tomato
Wilted spinach leaves, minced fresh parsley, pesto, salsa, poached egg, dollop of sour cream, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes
Split pea
Leftover ham, crisp-cooked bacon, cheddar cheese, fresh or frozen peas, dried tarragon, rinsed and drained canned white beans or lentils
Potato or corn chowder
Crisp-cooked bacon, sliced green onions, chedddar cheese, shredded rotisserie chicken, cooked shrimp or crab
Sausage or pancetta, diced tomatoes, pesto, Parmesan, cooked pasta or cooked diced potato

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.


Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2020 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, this is fast becoming a full-blown article, not just a simple Q&A, and I love that. I'll work on it today and see where it takes me.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Yahoo -- I understand granola - but as a breakfast cereal - no way.

      I was also thinking of the notion of what "cereal" means.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, I've made lots of things you wouldn't normally think of creating at home (crackers come to mind) but never in my wildest moments have I ever considered making breakfast cereal. Unless, of course, you're thinking of granola (which you can pour milk on but Mr. Carb likes his with yogurt). Now granola I can do for you. Beyond that I'll need to do some research. However, you're entirely worth it.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Cereal? That is the question.

      What is a good recipe to make some homemade breakfast cereals?

      The "sugary" store ones are interesting. Sugar but a complete - fortified vitamin in each bowl.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      16 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks, Eric. I always look forward to your questions.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      16 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Hot dogs are always on hand. I say hot dogs are especially associated with the heat of summer and outdoor stuff -4th of july, so you sweat out the sodium.

      That is such a good section on soups. Thank you.

      I have a question brewing on breakfast so I will be back.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      16 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lawrence, not only do I not mind, but I love it when my readers contribute. Thanks so much.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      16 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      I can add one redeeming value of the American hot dog, they just taste so good! But keep the doses small!

      Having said that can I suggest to you a recipe we discovered from a great Chef here in NZ.

      The Chef's name is Nadia LIm and she was a Masterchef NZ winner about ten years ago since then she'd done amazing stuff bringing the joy of cooking to us Kiwis.

      She's part Kiwi and Part Malaysian so you can imagine the explosions of taste she cooks up, but our favourite is her Pork and Apple sausage roll using just whatever you have in the pantry, it's tasty and healthy.

      Just thought to put that in, hope you didn't mind,


    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you Denise. Hot dogs are NOT on my menu, ever, but for the love of Bill I gave it a look. Thanks for stopping by.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      17 months ago from Fresno CA

      Good hot dog question. I knew about the fat and sodium content long ago and stopped eating them myself. It always made me feel sluggish afterward and I'm sure that's due to the fat content. I have enough trouble with my blood pressure, I don't need extra salt to confound the problem.



    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Sourav Rana, thank you so much. As you can see this is #133. There are 132 others for your choosing, and #134 will be published next Monday. I hope you'll visit again.

    • hubber8893 profile image

      Sourav Rana 

      17 months ago

      Very interesting read for food loving people. Thanks for sharing!

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Hi Mary, it's good to hear from you. There is indeed a difference between the two; I can easily answer that next week. Thanks and my love to you and Ian.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Dora, as always, it is my pleasure. I enjoy researching and writing this weekly column; I'm glad that you enjoy it too.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      17 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Linda,

      When I was in high school I worked at a hot dog fast food establishment. (I can't bring myself to calling them restaurants). I ate a fair few during that time.

      We don't have canned soup where I live and the dried soup, isn't good. I will try your suggestions for adding a bit of pizzazz.

      Ian asked an odd question that stumped me today, when I bought him some chewing gum. What is the difference between spearmint and peppermint?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      17 months ago from The Caribbean

      Interesting the way you presented the answer to the hot dog question. Thanks for the suggestions on improving the taste of canned soup. Thanks for both answers.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, I don't know but I'll find out and will let you know. Have a great week Sis.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      17 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, this weekend I had a hankering for hot dogs, so that's what I had for dinner Saturday night. I only buy Nathan's hot dogs. I wonder how their dogs fare in you chart?

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, all is well in Carb Diva land. Spring is finally here and I'm loving it. Have a great week my friend.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, I appreciate your encouragement and kind words. Stay safe.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Good morning Eric, and what a super question. (I think I may be getting a lot more like that in the near future). I wrote an article a few years ago about the blue plate special and another on how the Great Depression changed us and the way we ate. I think I'd better dust them off. Thanks for that.

      I agree with you totally about ballpark food, but many of the "updated" stadiums are going all fancy now.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      17 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And I say HOORAY for potassium! lol

      Thanks for humoring me, my friend. I had a hot dog last night and it hit the sweet spot, so all is well in my world.

      Have a brilliant Monday, and stay safe!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      17 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Linda, my husband also likes hotdogs. He looks for the all beef ones. The quote by M.F.K. Fisher is very interesting and I enjoyed your article, as always

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      17 months ago from Gondwana Land

      Great job Linda. I do enjoy an occasional hotdog, and the ideas of spicing up and improving the nutrition of canned soup was great. Love the quote by Fisher too.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      New schedule these trying times so caught you early? Or is that late. Now these hot dogs are all interesting but I missed the recipe for homemade ;-) OK I ate 22 in a contest and did not eat them for years. And I don't like Coke. But a ball game with the boy -- all bets are off - Go Aztecs. Funny but a hot summer day at the park and I need my sodium, with popcorn please.

      Wow, my bride is starting to do all that with soups. That is tough for a diehard Pho' chef. Tough times make for fun food.

      Which brings me to my question. What famous foods we created due to necessity and lack of normal foods. For some reason I think of Mol'e from Mexico and some breads with strange things going on -wood?

      Off to sweet slumber.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      17 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, in my opinion there is a generation (or 2) that doesn't know how to cook; they've always relied on take-out or prepared foods or frozen meals. How many at the food bank know how to cook a sack of beans or rice?

      It's very sad. I wish I knew how to help more.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      17 months ago from USA

      Given the state of what’s going on, it looks like there will be a lot more of the hot dog and canned soup types of questions. People will really be looking to try to eat on a budget. I hope they grow their own food rather than turn to junk food.


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