I’m a big fan of Jamie Loftus’s work in the podcast sphere, so I’ve had a hold on the audio of RAW DOG since it came out. Finally it was my turn! Tragically, I had a weird download and some of the book was clipped out in the beginning. But I was too impatient to re-download and felt guilty hanging onto such a popular book for a long time. So I didn’t reread – it’s possible I missed some stuff.
The book starts out with a brief but thorough look at the history of how the hot dog came to be an American staple. But the largest chunk of the book is Loftus’s road trip around the country eating hundreds of hot dogs. The road trip coincides with some big and tumultuous changes with her life. Just like her podcasts, the narrative rotates through her cheeky humor, a progressive social analysis of her subject, and naked honesty about the piece of her life she’s trying to hold together during an insane and important period of her career.
I thought we would get more of the gross backstory of how hot dogs are made, but that’s not a huge part of the book (in case you are squeamish). But the moments she does get into the factory farming system and animal welfare are very bleak, so if you cannot stomach that it may not be the book for you. Most of the references to America’s meatpacking industry are in regards to the disastrous human rights issues during the start of the pandemic. In fact a big theme of the book is the dichotomy of this working class meal filling the pockets of rich assholes.
My favorite parts were learning about all the different ways we eat hot dogs across America. As a plain-Jane myself (I like mine slightly blackened on the grill, on a toasted buttered bun with a neat line of mustard), most of the recipes were not particularly appetizing, but Loftus has a way of getting one very invested and excited about whatever subject she is covering, and it is no different in her debut book.