There were three things people had told me about Cincinnati:
They have the best milk shakes in the country
It is the city of the flying pigs
People in Cincinnati are crazy about a certain type of food called “chili cheese dogs”
While number one made perfect sense (Ohio is worldwide famous for its milk cows), number two sounded a little bit disturbing (are there pigs dangling from the buildings in Cincinnati? And more importantly, were these pigs alive at one point???). Now, as far as number three on the list goes, everybody was just raving about the “chili cheese dogs”, so I knew a very special delicacy was in store for me. What I didn’t know was that this cheesy dog would teach me four important facts about Cincinnati.
The first Cincy fact I was taught when asking about the “chili cheese dog” (with raised eyebrows and rolling eyes), was that people in Cincinnati NEVER EVER call it a “chili cheese dog”. The proper name is “cheese coney”. “Chili cheese dog” is just a name ignorant outatowners gave it, people that have probably never seen a real cheese coney; in other words: people like me.
Cincy fact number two involves rituals around eating a cheese coney. You cannot just go out and eat a cheese coney on the go, as a fast little snack (as I foolishly assumed). Also, it is very bad manners to just eat a cheese coney by yourself. Eating a cheese coney is a social event. You go with your family, with your friends or at least with your dog or – as it was the case with me – you take your uneducated visitors with you to experience the one and only Cincinnati cheese coney.
So here I am, finally, with a hot and fresh cheese coney in front of me. For the first time in my life I get to admire the real deal: a fresh bun with a firm hot dog in it, covered in delicious smelling chili, with a mountain of cheese on top. In my (naive) German mind however, this combination just doesn’t make sense. I understand the hot dog by itself and I understand the chili by itself but why (why???) would you ever combine two types of meat? Because, and this is Cincy fact number three— because more meat is more good! Why make do with just one type of meat when you can have two? Makes sense, right?
Now there is only one thing separating me from my very first bite of cheese coney; the hot sauce that goes on top. I grab the bottle and spread a very generous amount on my coney. My friends look at me, trying to warn me – but please! I have lived in South America for the past three years and from jalapeño to rocoto, I have tried just about every hot pepper there is. This sauce will be nothing for me. So I confidently take my first big bite … and I am in flames! My face is turning crimson and I am sure there is steam coming out of my ears. My taste buds are numb. All I can taste is “hot”. So as much as I would like to tell you what I think of the Cheese Coney, unfortunately I have no idea what it tastes like. Which brings me to the fourth and most important Cincy fact: you should always listen to what people in Cincinnati have to tell to you; they know what they are talking about!