Audiobook of the Week: What’s Really in a Hot Dog?

RAW DOG: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, by Jamie Loftus. Read by the author.

Most of us don’t want to think too much about our hot dogs: what’s in them, how they were made, what “nitrates” really do. In her new audiobook, “Raw Dog,” the comedian Jamie Loftus bravely rips off the Band-Aid of her own hot dog ignorance. The audiobook is many things: part gonzo travelogue in which Loftus and a boyfriend spend the summer of 2021 traversing the country to sample its dogs; part cultural analysis of the tube meat as American icon; part takedown of the factory farming system; part memoir about a crumbling relationship straining under the weight of cheap motel rooms and indigestion.

Loftus, who is also a podcast host, is a charming narrator. She’s goofy, engaging, always game to do a silly voice. She’s at her best as a generous voyeur in the country’s small, singular, often family-run hot dog joints with their ambivalent teen staffers, dramatic neighborhood lore and weirdly ubiquitous photos of Jimmy Fallon on the wall.

Our narrator’s tone is brazen, and potty mouthed: She can’t stop comparing food to bodily excretions, which might quickly cause listeners to lose their appetite. And the book’s tone can often feel as jumbled as the toppings on a Chicago dog, whipping from intestinal distress to labor conditions to class analysis to deep-fried bologna. In this way, the book recalls a hot dog itself: many disparate parts, blended together without the burden of finesse, offered up with a wink and a smile.

‘Raw Dog’

Listen to a clip from ‘Raw Dog’

RAW DOG: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, by Jamie Loftus. Read by the author. Macmillan Audio, 9 hours, 38 minutes.

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