Every Icelandic Hotdog Condiment Combination, Rated — Part 2; With Analysis! - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Every Icelandic Hotdog Condiment Combination, Rated — Part 2; With Analysis!

Every Icelandic Hotdog Condiment Combination, Rated — Part 2; With Analysis!

York Underwood Jón Benediktsson
Photos by
York Underwood, Hannah Cohen

Published May 26, 2015

Welcome back. If you are just joining us on this treatise on taste, read the first part of our review of all 32 possible hotdog condiment combinations. This second part has been long in the making, mostly because we had to run our analysis on the Grapevine computer at night. Of course our readers were deeply unsettled by this delay.

Here are some of the emails we received:

Þormóður, Egilsstaðir:
What the eff guys? Are you leaving me hanging here? Do you expect me to review the last 16 hotdogs on my own? We don’t even have a Bæjarins beztu in Egilsstaðir! I’ve been driving to Akureyri on the weekends to get hotdogs from the stand there, but I can only eat two hotdogs at a time because I’m gluten intolerant. The first part was a godsend, but now you’re ruining my life. Thanks a lot guys.

Laura, Reykjavík:
Dear listicle writers,
I feel like it’s my duty to inform you that Iceland’s population is really small. Now that you’ve become famous because of the popularity of your hotdog article, you can’t behave in the same way as you did before. Your behaviour at Kaffibarinn, all the way down Laugavegur and at the Waffle Wagon last weekend was completely unacceptable.

Björg, Hafnafjörður:
Dear Jón and York, I know you guys were just trying be funny or whatever, but I was really bummed out you didn’t include a vegetarian option in the first piece. As a group, we vegetarians are often marginalized because people think we live off of condiments and side dishes, but it’s not the case! Now with everyone being vegan, it’s almost like being a vegetarian doesn’t really count anymore. It’s this kind of polarized thinking that has led to some of the worst atrocities in human history. There is a spectrum of diets available—HELL, I’m a pescetarian, if I’m being honest—we shouldn’t be forced to go full vegan if we don’t want to, you know. I simply like vegetables and fish and grains—and sometimes chicken, but only from Gló (it’s a vegetarian restaurant). I’ve even had bacon this week. I’m not trying to be “one of those” vegetarians because I’m not. I have smoked lamb at christmas and I hunt my own puffin. I just think there should be a more openly focused guide covering the vegetarian options or even one with different styles of wiener (Is there whale sausage?). Actually, I’d even be interested in seeing what goes into a hotdog and how each animal is slaughtered and what parts are used—like an Infographic or something. Anyway I hope this can lead to further articles in the future and maybe next time you won’t forget about us vegetarians.

Ásmundur, Dalasýslu:
Dear Grapevine, Attn: York Underwood and Jón Benediktsson

I wanted to write you to warn you about your last article. I don’t think I’m the only one who got the misguided advice to eat 16 hotdogs in a row. If only you knew the trouble this has caused me. Let’s just say they are not as good coming up as going down—ask the people travelling with me.

Thanks guys! We just wanted a reason to eat a lot of hotdogs. So on to the condiments.

The combinations will be familiar — yet there is something new. RAW ONIONS. The bane of first dates. The only known vegetable to bring its butcher to tears. It’s the most emotional condiment, not constrained by any one definition. It plays well with others, or it doesn’t. You love it. You hate it. There is no “undecided” option. This takes all the combinations and drives them to further polarization. It´s the American media of toppings.

Legend
= It’s good
= It’s bad
= Ketchup
= Mustard
= Remoulade
= Cronions
= Raw onions
= Nothing
YU = York Underwood
JB = Jón Benediktsson

Raw Onions Are Here

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Raw Onions

YU: I like onions, I even like the taste of my first bite. By the third bite, I would have poured anything in my mouth to make it more swallowable. There’s nothing like pasty dry bread and the burning sensation of onions in your nostrils.
JB: I dislike onions. This was the worst hotdog I ever had. Never could I have imagined a hotdog could be this bad. If you are visiting Iceland and you’re sick of hotdogs (gulp!), but your annoying friend wants one — tell him this one is the classic. You will never eat hotdogs again.

Mustard And Raw Onions

YU: Mustard. Onions. It’s the classic hotdog duo. I even like saur-kraut, but that might be too much. I’m excited to try this with cronions to give it the double onion, cronion crunch.
JB: I had no idea this was popular abroad so the taste came as quite a surprise to me. This is the reason why I was excited for this project, to find hidden combos like this one. I’m not expecting it to explode in popularity but I feel this is something every hotdog afficionado must try at least once in their lifetime.

Remoulade And Raw Onions

YU: Again, onions save the day. I find remoulade by itself to be a little bit too much, but with the crisp snaps of the diced onions releasing their aromatic sting I’m left with a almost perfect combination of tangyness and oiliness.
JB: The biggest gripe a had with the remoulade in part 1 was lack of texture. The raw onions make for great texture and their sweetness balances out the fattyness of the remúlaði well. Another surprising win for onions.

Ketchup And Raw Onions

YU: Well, I’ve never been a huge fan of ketchup. It’s my least favourite, edible, red coloured sauce. But it has its charm. The strong acidity of the ketchup brings out a different side to the diced onions. It’s not the best side, more like a weird secret that maybe it should have kept to itself.
JB: The mark of a great adventure is it changes you. It doesn’t necessary make you better, just different. And now, on my fourth raw onion hotdog in a row I’m begginning to question myself. Do I like onions? Like Bilbo Baggins returning from that place where he found the ring, I’m left to wonder: How will this affect my life in the future? Probably it means more bad breath. At this point, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

One Condiment To Rule Them All?

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Cronions And Raw Onions

YU: It’s better than just diced onions alone, but it’s still too dry. You can take solace in the nice scent of the fried onions, but your throat will not forgive you.
JB: So I’m guessing this is the part of the adventure where Bilbo feels the negative effects of the ring? After a few home runs onions really blew it on this one. It’s like when your posh and refined girlfriend meets her outback friends from the countryside and goes all Coyote Ugly on Kaffibarinn. Not pretty.

Mustard, Cronions And Raw Onions

YU: Speak, memory — of the cunning hero. The wonderer, blown of course, time and again. After reaching condiment heights never before seen, it’s not the everything hotdog — but it may be my everything.
JB: I’m feeling a mild fatherly disappointment with this one. I imagine this is how Gandalf must have felt when he caught Merry and that guy from Lost stealing his fireworks. All of the elements are there: Cronions, good. Mustard, good. Raw onions, good apperantly. This is one of those rare instances where the whole is less then the sum of its parts.

Ketchup, Cronions And Raw Onions

YU: I feel like the evil stepmother in Cinderella, I’m constantly picking on ketchup in favour of the two uglier stepsisters. I’m hoping one time it will prove me wrong and be the belle of the ball. But this is not that time. A hotdog, where the condiments don’t blend in flavour but are their own separate units gives one the feeling that you already know what it would taste like coming back up.
JB: There’s something about the combination of the two sweet versions of onions with the sweet sauces that doesn’t work. I’m not sure this is a point of view many agree with here in Iceland, seeing as we used to be the fattest nation in Europe, but it’s possible for something to taste too sweet, this hotdog being a prime example.

Remoulade, Cronions And Raw Onions

YU: This would be good on a picnic. I picture myself eating this on a table by a pond. It’s like a potato salad but instead of potatoes it has random pieces of lamb.
JB: There was a time in the history of Iceland when we were rapidly changing flags. We went from a cod based one, to the beautiful white-blue one before the Danish king crammed the current flag down our throats (yeah, sure the red means volcanoes and not Denmark — throughout the year volcanoes haven’t been the largest killer in Iceland). I feel like if we were still going through that period, someone could argue that this hotdog belonged on the flag.

Countdown To The One With Everything

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Mustard, Remoulade And Raw Onions

YU: Surprisingly subtle for something with raw onions, the flavours release, expand and grow in your mouth without becoming too overpowering or underwhelming. This is the type of hotdog I would expect to buy while bicycling through France, oui oui.
JB: That was the trappiest hotdog I’ve ever eaten. There are probably guys in Atlanta cooking crack and eating this right now. If you like stuff raw, stuff that gives you a sensation that starts in your head and slowly destroys the rest of your body and soul – this is it. This is hard core.

Ketchup, Remoulade And Raw Onions

YU: This was a surprise, like Gandalf returning after falling while fighting that fireball thing — many members of the fellowship were unsure of Gandalf’s fate. Some probably were quick to write him off, assuming he was dead while others had hope in their hearts for the return. I admit that in the past, I’ve judged ketchup too harshly — not giving it the hope or room to impress me. I was mistaken. Long live Gandalf.
JB: Again, ketchup ruins the day. My disdain for the US grows with every day for bringing this condiment to the hotdog spectrum. Icelanders really love sauces, that’s no secret. What could we have instead of ketchup? Cocktail-sauce? Siracha? soy? I can day dream all I want, but I’m never getting those eight seconds of my life back.

Ketchup, Mustard And Raw Onions

YU: I wouldn’t want to eat this, when it’s too hot outside. Luckily, with the window open, a cool breeze kept the vinegar from overpowering my palate. I don’t know what this means, I could see why people would order this on a windy day — but if it was raining, forget it.
JB: In part 1 I went into great detail describing the cronions version of this hotdog. With my expanding love for raw onions I thought this would be a home run. But it isn’t. It’s something bad that happens in baseball (the cross in handball, if you will). The raw onions are too sweet for this mix of condiments.

Ketchup, Mustard, Cronions And Raw Onions

YU: The cronions help, I was worried that the cronions would be similar to the revised edition of the Original Star Wars series. Unnecessary special effects that do nothing to carry the story. Instead, the cronions were like a directors cut of Blade Runner, providing a new twist on something slightly overrated. But I don’t know, that could just be the Gemini in me talking.
JB: As we creep closer to ‘the one with everything’, I keep wondering if it’s the perfect storm of condiments or if there’s one condiment that’s expandable. Well the remoulade definitely isn’t. The texture is perfect, and maybe it’s just my palate being so used to the fattiness of the remoulade but something is just off here.

The Mustard Crisis

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Ketchup, Mustard, Remoulade And Raw Onions

YU: Do you remember, the ending of Ulysses? The long stream of conscience prose without punctuation requires the reader to parse and time the sentences on their own. This is the everything without cronions hotdog. Getting into a rhythm of chew to swallow, can make the difference between enjoyment and bitter defeat. Not for everyone, but certainly not for no one.
JB: I loved this one. If you don’t care about the way you smell, this is a great hotdog. I’ll let you in on the secret for not caring about the way you smell in Iceland. You just have to place yourself so that the person you are talking to is standing in the same direction as the wind is blowing from. It’s the same as with hunting. “What if there’s no wind?” someone might ask. This is Iceland, there’s wind inside — it’s the direction you should be worried about, because usually it comes from all sides.

Mustard, Remoulade, Cronions And Raw Onions

YU: In 2007 American journalist Alan Weisman wrote the book The World Without Us. It gave a detailed account of what might happen on earth if humans were to suddenly dissappear. This is not malicious, but having the hotdog with everything but ketchup felt like a future utopia. A place no longer strangled by American culture imperialism. It’s not that I hate America, it’s just sometimes it’s enough already.
JB: Maybe it’s the stress from eating 32 hotdogs in four days but I’ve started to see the condiment family as my own family. My parents are the two types of onions, mother being cronions because no one dislikes them and they are always so sweet and father being raw onions because even though I didn’t like them at first, I can see now that they are necessary to bring discipline to the whole mix. My sister is mustard because it has always treated me well and at times was the only thing that believed in me and my brother is remoulade, my only friend whilst growing up as a fat baby. That makes me ketchup, and it does make sense because people will only miss me when I’m gone. A surprisingly bad hotdog.

Ketchup, Remoulade, Cronions And Raw Onions

YU: I came here just like the Vikings, to start a new life. It’s not easy, it’s not meant be easy. It’s meant to change me, to force me to carve me out of myself. What am I made of? Am I just water with a few other particles, or is there such a thing as the soul? Too long have I relied on mustard to fill the hole in my heart. It’s time to take responsibility for myself.
JB: The financial collapse in 2008 wasn’t popular in Iceland. We went from being one of the richest countries in the world to one of the poorest in a matter of days. But the collapse was neccesary for us as a nation. Not just because it was humbling, in the same way as WWII was for Germany (although the EU debate largely focuses on how great Iceland is, but this is limited to the few people in the countryside who’ve never been abroad), it is also because it shifted our focus from trying to become the best financial country in the world to trying to become the best tourist destination in the world. If we still had subheadlines online, I would try to pitch the subheadline “the mustard crisis”. I feel like mustard has followed me throughout my life, much like how the one ring always found ways to keep itself from destruction. Now I feel I’m standing in the volcano, York being my Samwise Gamgee, ready to throw mustard in it. I’m released by mustard’s spell. Away it goes. A great hotdog.

Ketchup, Mustard, Remoulade, Cronions And Raw Onions — THE ONE WITH EVERYTHING

YU: Plato describes soulmates as a single soul that was broken into two parts—spending their lives searching for each other, consciously and not. This seems to be driven by subjective forces in reality. We choose to see the parts of people we like or don’t like. In a flush of neurochemistry, the person who will later be the biggest regret of your life, is at the moment of pining ecstasy, your one true love. We ride torrents of hormones and emotions while piecing together reality—like building a jigsaw puzzle on a roller coaster. It is possible that a piece of our collective souls also became part of a non-conscious item, a truly objective soulmate. Can a non-conscious entity be everything? Is it an everything hotdog or a hotdog with everything?

I think we have argued with our effort that this is truly a hotdog with everything, not an everything hotdog. An everything hotdog would contain everything, but not be complementary to everything, a sludge of reality with no definite design or parts. A hotdog with everything is a hotdog for everything, a piecewise construction of reality with each part containing enough intrinsic value to sustain and carry the aesthetic quality of the whole.

I guess that’s what this two-part investigation comes down to: is the hotdog with everything merely the sum of its parts, or is it greater? There were many combinations that were delicious, functional, and textured. They stood alone as experiences in themselves. Comparatively, were the experiences different, though? Can it be said that unless the hotdogs have all the condiments, it’s unfulfilled and unrepresentative of the true hotdog experience? I think this is not the case. There were surprises, such as raw onions, that gave both Jón and me a new perspective on sensorial melodies. Onions belong in the tapestry of hotdog construction—even if you’d never eat them on their own. We were both quite hard on ketchup, but the tangy zip contrasting to the sweet mustard while lightening the remoulade was not just necessary in many combinations, it was divine.

We are not perfect arbiters of taste, not by any means. We were eating eight hotdogs a day, for four days. Our ability to judge without bias was hindered, if not completely discarded by the fourth hotdog. I experienced physical trauma in the form of sweating and a brief period where I was sensitive to sunlight. I was eating one meal a day of considerable quantity, a reverse fast. I don’t know if one can consider the effects spiritual, but I shifted through the entire spectrum of transcendental experience until, finally, enlightenment. It is not for us to know if the hotdog with everything is the best. The only everything the hotdog brings is the everything you brought to it. It is, in a sense, a reflection of its consumer. You are what you eat and you eat what you are. If you come to the hotdog with peace of mind and an openness to everything, you can have everything because you already do.

JB: I was with York at Bæjarins Bestu one night after the usual 101 Reykjavík evening shenanigans. With him interning as a journalist at the Grapevine and me being a programmer at the Grapevine, I was trying to impress him with my journalistic skills. The guy manning the booth was local musician Skúli mennski, which roughly translates to Skúli The Human, most definitely because his hotdog making skills are so machine-like the people of Iceland needed a reminder that he was in fact, human. The tourists in front of us in the queue ordered one with kethcup and one with ketchup and mustard, two hotdogs that are far from the best you can get. In my eagerness to impress York, I tried to briefly interview Skúli The Human about tourist-trap hotdogs and the best condiment combination. To my surprise, Skúli wasn’t quite in the mood to be interviewed by two really drunk self proclaimed hotdog specialists.

But I still needed answers to my questions. Is the one with everything the best hotdog or is there a better hotdog condiment combination out there? Everyone knows the one with everything (unless you’re a fat child being raised by my mother), and even though people are skipping a condiment they view it as a variation of the one with everything. Say you were ordering the one with ketchup, mustard, remoulade and cronions — you would never ask for that, you would ask for a one with everything without the raw onions. It’s the hotdog that defines every other hotdog. When you’re cooking hotdogs at home and you don’t have remoulade or raw onions (the shelf-life of those condiments is terrible) you feel shame in your heart that you’re not eating the one with everything.

But whilst reviewing the one with everything you have to ask yourself the fundamental question: are hotdogs a snack or are they a meal? Where do you draw the line between snack and meal? From years of experience I would say it’s probably around one and a half hotdogs. And the thing with the one with everything is you always eat at least one of those. It doesn’t matter if you’re just having two or if your having four, one of those hotdogs should always be the one with everything. Should we fault this hotdog for not being the only combination you should order ever, no matter how many you are eating? No, and that’s the beauty of the hotdog condiment combinations — you can always add your own twist by getting your personal hotdog next to the one with everything. That being said, it did taste kind of weird since we were putting all the condiments on top of the hotdog for photographic reasons. Oh my god, we have to do it all again but now with varying over/under combinations. Oh well, its only 243 more hotdogs.

Analysis

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Now that we know which combinations are good and which are bad, the question still lingers: What is the best combination? When we quit working on Wall Street to move to Iceland to work for the Grapevine, the last thing we did was promise ourselves we wouldn’t dabble in analysis. But now we’re opening this Pandora’s box, succumbing again to the dark art of evidence-based, empirical analysis of hotdogs.

In every condiment combination review there are two variables, our rating and the length of the review. Instinctively, since these variables aren’t directly related, one would think that a multiple of them could serve as the basis of a new all-in-one hotdog rating — the hotdog efficiency rating or HER. Using HER it’s obvious that the one with everything blows every other hotdog out of the water with its astonishing HER value of +1990. So surely we can close this case, everyone knows it and we used our guts to tell us what we wanted to hear. This looks past the vast amount of data we’ve collected on hotdogs though and in the age of big data, your gut is good for the hypothesis — but it doesn’t prove a thing.

If the one with everything is the best hotdog there is, that must mean that each condiment balances out every other condiment perfectly. If that was the case, the sum of the positive reviews each condiment got would be the same. Still, we can’t forget that the reviewers — much like Skúli at Bæjarins bestu — are human. So we have to take the individual into account and remove him from the equation.

Out of 32 hotdogs York liked 19 and Jón liked 15. Breaking down the likes per condiment is as follows:

York | Create infographics

Jón | Create infographics

To remove individual bias we take each reviewer’s condiment likes and divide them with the median of his condiments likes, and then add them together to get the total unbiased condiment score. The results were as follows:

Unbiased Condiment Score | Create infographics

Sticking true to form we’ll conclude with our finale thought, both analysing this result individually:

YU: Five bars, each representing a condiment, spreading out like the unseen hand. Remoulade, yes the gooey centre of the hotdog with everything, is a surprise victor, the condiment that leads. Everything is subjective: famous last words, but also trite sophomoric babble to anyone who’s been hit by a car. Reality—yes the fabric of existence—is unrelentingly present, continually pressing against your subjective lens and never letting your mind get the best of you. You can’t run from the universe. So why are so many content to devalue personal experience, subjectivity, by stating it’s all in the eye of the beholder?

The data shows there is a structure to beauty—in this case it is exemplified by taste. Subtracting the lowest value, ketchup, from each of the other condiment scores we see something familiar, The Golden Ration. That’s right the mathematical constant loved by the greeks, painters of the renaissance, and thinkers of the Enlightenment. The first harps were created with this ratio in mind…it can even be found in the lines of the pentagram The symbol of Pythagoras. What we have stumbled upon through crude, rudimentary analysis is the underlying aesthetic objectivity of the universe. There is an objective reality that is beauty and it can be found, if you are willing to look.

Jón and I approached this from completely different backgrounds. He’s an Icelander and, as many of you know, almost embarrassingly nationalistic. I was worried when we ventured into this project that our cultural differences would create a homogenous data set showing obviously explained discrepancies. Instead, two people from separate backgrounds, and of equal physical beauty and mental force, discovered through inspection the permeating force of beauty.

I don’t know where this leaves the rest of you. I know, for me, I can no longer doubt Jón’s subjective experience, nor can I discount the incomprehensibility of another’s mind. But, with every bite I take of a hotdog from now on, I know I am connected to all of you: filled with the same fire that lit the stars and the all powerful oneness that is reality—with everything.

JB: Throughout this journey it’s been easy writing up these personal blurbs on each hotdog, because what’s more personal than a hotdog? It’s the one food you don’t share. Writing your personal opinion on complex objective analysis is a whole different ballpark. The data speaks for itself, what more can I add to it? Obviously our hypothesis was wrong, each condiment doesn’t balance out every other condiment completely. The one with everything isn’t the best hotdog there is.

You can’t fight data.

The condiments that got the highest score, mustard, remoulade and raw onions got a HER of +190. Okay, so the one with everything had a ten times higher HER, but HER isn’t everything when it comes to hotdogs. Much like how PER in basketball overly rewards offensive efficiency over defensive efficiency, HER rewards descriptive efficiency over taste efficiency. Of course the historically famous hotdogs are going to get a higher HER than the others, since just talking about the hotdog’s rich history is going to pump up that hotdog’s HER. The fact is though, the layman doesn’t watch sports for the defence. So the hotdog layman should just lean on the HER and get the one with everything — sure. It seems fitting that the one with mustard, remoulade and raw onions is the hotdog for the true hotdog aficionado, because as I said in my review of that combination: “This is hard core.”

———

Fancy reviewing every hotdog condiment combination yourself? Photograph yourself and write a review on the 32 hotdogs, for a chance to win a Grapevine t-shirt!

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