My dad handed me a foil-wrapped object, its silver sides glinting in the fluorescent light as I took it from his hand. It was still warm.
I hadn't really asked him to buy me a hot dog at Costco, but at this point in our relationship, it's sort of a foregone conclusion.
You see, my dad is the type of man who appreciates a good deal, especially when it comes to food. All you can eat buffets, two-for-one offers...and the warehouse club hot dog, which is a screaming good deal in his book. After all, you can get a hot dog and a drink for under $2. Where else can you eat an entire meal for such a low price? This is the rhetorical question my dad asks each time he hands another still-steaming foil cylinder to me.
This thrifty tradition goes way back. On Sundays, when I was younger, my parents would make a weekly Sam's (another
cult club warehouse store) run to stock up on household necessities in bulk. With three young kids in the house, we went through things like toilet paper and cereal quickly, necessitating these pilgrimages to the kind of club where, instead of throbbing music and colorful light shows, you're surrounded instead by elevator music and fluorescent lights that wouldn't be out of place in an interrogation room. My brother, my sister and I adored these trips. It was here that we learned another one of my dad's methods for seeking out a good food deal: the free samples.
"Think of it as an appetizer," he'd say, leading us past the 64oz bottles of olive oil and the kiddie-pool sized tubs of mayonnaise to the first of many free food oases. Bite-sized sections of sandwiches, pizza rolls, crackers with a tiny square of "interesting" cheese on them, communion-sized cups of juice...we consumed it all, trailing behind our Free Food Sensei and learning from his wise ways. We'd chew thoughtfully and comment on the merits of each sample as if we were food critics. This was a process, after all.
At the end of our journey, our appetites sufficiently whetted, my dad would leave my mom to wheel our teeming cart through the checkout and take us over to the food counter (conveniently placed so you have to walk by it to leave). He'd pull out a ten, buy us all hot dogs, and present them to us. After the vigorous sampling, it felt like we had earned it.
Tonight, after a quick spin through Costco to collect supplies for my sister-in-law's baby shower this weekend, I knew exactly what my dad was doing when he kept walking once we pulled up to the checkout lane. I followed him, and sure enough, I was rewarded with the first foil-wrapped hot dog I'd had in quite some time.
"Only the best for his girls," my mom commented with a smile as she and my sister took their own pieces of nostalgia.
When I was younger, I coated my prize with ketchup and added mustard as an afterthought. These days, I take healthy doses of ketchup, mustard and relish on my hot dogs. Tonight, I unleashed my inner kid as I decorated my dog, delighting in the waves of happy memories that flowed over me as I did.
My condiment preferences may have matured as I have gotten older, but there's one part of me that's the same: the part of me that still loves eating a Costco hot dog with her dad.