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Let's Be Frank Dogs: All the Way to the White House?

The 2009 Aspen Ideas Festival—the kind of place where the likes of Toni Morrison, Sandra Day O’Connor and Frank Gehry bounce around ideas with a capital “I”—kicked off yesterday. Some of the brain food on offer? SF’s own Let’s Be Frank grass-fed hot dogs.

The isn’t the only time LBF has been invited to participate in the festival. Last year, says LBF co-founder Larry Bain, Colin Powell slung dogs at their cart. There are also rumors that the White House could be serving the LBF dogs for their annual Fourth of July picnic. As Bain put it: “I’m not allowed to say, but people are talking to people who are talking to people.”

The hot-dog, as ambassador—a symbol of “democratic charm”—has been of much discussion on the New York Times lately. As Dan Barry put it: "In the formal language of diplomacy, perhaps, the presentation of a hot dog may say: “On behalf of the United States of America, may we offer you this tubular delight of meat, meat byproducts, curing agents and spices?” But what it really says is: “How ya doin’? Wanna beer?”

Of course, if it was a grass-fed dog, the gesture would feel more virtuous, if only the beer was sustainable and organic too. Bain, who always has a lot to say, commented on this. (Cue “God Bless America.”)

“I think that the reason Sue [Moore] and I got into the hot dog business is because we felt it was a symbol of where we’d been many years ago, and the potential for the hot dog to return to its original glory. When Americans first started eating hot dogs, they were a symbol of a wonderful food system—the cattle were raised on grass, the slaughter facility was reasonably humane. In the 30's, the hot dog was a beautiful thing. When we industrialized our food system, the hot dog became a symbol of everything that was wrong—fast, cheap and out of control. For many years, the hot dog was a guilty pleasure. But at Let’s Be Frank, we use grass-fed beef that comes from cows that are cared for, we use only very good cuts of meat and don’t add a host of flavors. I think America is going through that transformation— knowing where your hot dog comes from. I think it’s a wonderful day for America.”

Well, it might be wonderful for America but not for Iranian officials, who—for the first time since 1979—had been invited to have a dog at this year's White House Fourth of July picnic. As of last week though, Iran was disinvited by Hillary herself: “Now, hot-dog diplomacy is the latest casualty of the bloody clashes in Tehran.”

Talk about food politics.