Americans consume 20 billion hotdogs a year.  The key to keeping them “consumed” is to not think about what’s in them, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s the season, and we’re only a a month an a half away from the ridiculous gorge-fest that is Coney Island on July 4th.

Becky Mercuri has assembled a list of the best hotdogs, some quite artisanal in nature in The Great American Hot Dog Book.  It’s a foodstuff so interwoven into the American tapestry as to be synonymous with baseball and apple pie — and last time I checked people weren’t meandering up and down the bleachers at Modern Woodmen park hollering to, “Getcher red hot apple pie…”

She has the best weenie eateries grouped by region, so plan your California vacation accordingly so you can get one of Pink’s Pastrami Burrito Dogs.

One all-kosher beef I’ve got with the book is no pictures.

My favorite essay in John McPhee’s book, The Silk Parachute is “My Life List.” McPhee talks about the weirdest things he’s ever eaten, and, in doing so, he describes an encounter he had with that icon of the 70’s, Euell Gibbons. He shared boiled dandelions and water mint tea (remember the Grape Nuts commercial?) with Euell.

This  seems mighty tame compared to the weasel, lion, whale, grizzly bear and bee spit meals he had.

McPhee’s great skill is to make any subject, no matter how arcane, fascinating. He supplies just the right detail and sets the scene and before you know it, you’re sucked in.

In this series of essays written for the New Yorker, he often refers to feedback he received from legendary editor, Wallace Shawn.

Admittedly, we’re probably a several weeks away from harvesting from our gardens, but it doesn’t hurt to start planning early.  And what better (or more fun) way than to look through cookbooks? After all, you might never have even considered planting brussels sprouts until you see Keith Snow’s  “Brussels Sprouts with Mornay Sauce” in his Harvest Eating Cookbook. OK, maybe you’re still not considering growing brussels sprouts, but you get the idea – grow what you like to eat.

Taken in part from Snow’s PBS series, this book features delicious, simple recipes – none takes longer than a page to describe – using seasonal local ingredients. Some of those ingredients – avocados, mangos – aren’t exactly locally grown here in Iowa, but there are plenty of fresh ideas for local favorites – asparagus, butternut squash, tomatoes, corn, etc.

Don’t have a garden? There’s a huge variety of beautiful, locally grown produce at the Freight House Farmers Market here in Davenport, held every Saturday from 8am to 1pm and every Tuesday 3pm to 6pm, year round.