Ah, July 4th: food, fun and sun. Who could ask for more?

However, in the culinary world, the reigning champ of Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, is set to compete against a number of other contestants. Last year, Chestnut downed 62 Nathan franks in 10 minutes. I simply cannot imagine.

Yet, when it comes to July 4th, there is nothing more mouth-watering than a couple of old standards: Vienna Beef and Hebrew National hot dogs. Buddhist or not, Vienna and Hebrew franks, when cooked on a grill, emit an ambiance of flavors unlike any other.

The best grilled hot dog ends crunchy dark brown, just a shade prior to black. Hebrew National purports a big Bayou flavor while I personally claim Vienna is the ultimate taste sensation, a religious experience unmatched by any other. Additionally, as a certifiable ‘Northerner,’ ketchup on a hot dog amounts to blasphemy.

As a kid, I used to proudly watch my ol’ man torch such lovely delicacies via Kingsford briquets. While some claim the many hazards of briquettes, I for one, could care less.  Most briquettes have some form wood char but they may also include some level of sodium nitrate, borax, mineral carbon and starch.  Personally, when comes to July 4th, everyone needs a little borax. Right?

No one on my block could consider themselves barbeque aficionados without properly demonstrating proper culinary skills under the July sun.  Man-to-man, each house secretly competed against another for yearly braging rights for the year’s top honor. There was a certain aroma that intoxicatingly filled the summer breeze as children ran under sprinklers and threw firecrackers at ugly sisters.  For a kid with firecrackers, all sisters were ugly.

After secretly turning Buddhist several years ago, someone attempted to convert me to veggie dogs. I swear, I almost became Catholic. Accordingly, while veggie dogs may be great for your health they simply … ah … suck. Yes, yes … there’s simply nothing like barbequed soy protein and tofu on July 4th.

So for all those Buddhists out there, for one day, July 4th, enjoy the rapturous flavors of the mighty grill. Honor your inner caveman, pay alms to one another and enjoy a real Kingsford grilled dog.

And don’t forget the Kettle Chips … potato salad … and suffering in another Cubs loss … it’s all about tradition.

Regardless, as a Buddhist, enjoy each and every moment.