Raw Dog Review: The Hot Dog Lore Bible

By Steph Kingston on

About Steph Kingston

Geekly's own International Woman of Mystery.


I wasn’t entirely sure if I was going to cover Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs for Geekly. After all, it’s not exactly a book about our normal topics: fantasy, sci-fi and related geekery. But I’m also a huge fan of Jamie Loftus and her many excellent podcasts (full disclosure, my mom was in AckCast). So I knew I was going to read this book regardless, and once I cracked into it I knew why I would definitely cover it for the site. If there’s one thing we nerds love, it’s lore–and this is the Warhammer 40k source book for hot dogs. Weiner worldbuilding. Frankfurter fables. Plus it’s topped off with a delightful dose of horniness and anti-capitalism.

This book is weird, and not just because it’s a comedian traveling the United States eating hundreds of hot dogs with her pets and soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. It’s weird because it takes place in the summer of 2021, and sitting here reading it in 2023 I was consistently struck by how profoundly fucked up everything was and how much I had forgotten blocked out. This book is not just a food-based travelogue, it’s a snapshot of one of the weirdest times in human history. Loftus doesn’t shy away from this; in fact she rolls around in it. Hot dog descriptions interweave freely with at times graphic but very real descriptions of the way the meat industry exploits vulnerable people. Their lives, their labor, and their health are all secondary to making sure smoky tubes of mixed meat were always available to the masses even in the heights of the pandemic. Sobering reminders of lives lost to COVID are paired with descriptions of Loftus’s daydreams of getting absolutely railed in a fictional American town. It’s an emotional roller coaster that gets buck wild, but never too far into depressing without something funny to mix it up.

This is not a book to read while hungry. Descriptions of hot dogs good and bad are obviously present, and Loftus does a good job of describing them without getting too into gastronomic weeds. I found myself dreaming of grilled buns and bacon wrapped meat tubes. Just when the parade of hot dog descriptions starts to get a bit repetitive, Loftus mixes it up with some history. Something I found particularly fascinating in all the hot dog history was learning how many hot dog places became institutions in the 1930s. The Great Depression had made food extremely expensive and establishments who could promise a filling meal for a low price did very well. It uncomfortably reminded me of the time we’re in right now and left me wondering what the hot dog of the 2020s will be.

“Ah,” I hear you telling me now, “Steph, this just sounds like a history book with food,” which leads me to my next point: all good lore should include memorable characters and their exploits. I’m happy to inform you that the hot dog world delivers. The backstory, gossip and drama surrounding competitive eating and its prodigal hot dog-horking son Joey Chestnut are just as compelling as any spicy reality show. There’s the Wormtongue-esque George Shea whispering into the ears of competitive eaters, guiding them to their surely painful toilet time destinies on his prearranged paths. There’s a failed engagement, inter-competitor relationships, and just enough structural misogyny and racism to keep it All American. 

Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs comes out May 23, 2023 and will give you the summer read/conversation starter you need for all your upcoming barbecues.

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