Wieners. Foot-longs. Red-hots. No matter what you call ’em, they’re all hot dogs- and the official food of summertime needs no introduction. But since July is National Hot Dog Month we thought we’d give you a little background on the tasty little meat pack that is rich in history and is about more than the lips, assholes and old shoes you thought.
Get Yer Hot Dogs Here
By Belly Buddy Brian Bailey
We love hot dogs. After all, we are American. There is no other food product that represents the good old U.S. of A like a smoking hot wiener. But there are some anti-red, white and bluers out there who insist on vilifying this piece of gastronomic Americana. “There’s too much fat. Too much preservatives. Too many rat hairs.” Boo hoo. Face it folks, hot dogs taste good, and they make you feel good. So stop paying attention to the naysayers and get out there and cook up a batch of those phallic fun foods. You’ll be glad you did.
Hot dogs have history that is almost as cool as their name. In the ninth century B.C., the Greek überpoet Homer wrote about hot dogs in his testosterone fueled masterpiece, The Odyssey. “As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood,” he wrote, “and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted.” This guy could have written for The Belly. If nothing else, Homer proves that hot dogs and men have always been linked throughout history. However, it wasn’t until the middle ages in Europe that the modern hot dog began to take shape.
Where It All Began
In the seventeenth century in the town of Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, a sausage was created and given the rather unoriginal name of the Frankfurt sausage. It was shortly thereafter packaged in a casing and renamed the Frankfurter. It used to be fried in loads of hot oil (now it is almost always cooked/steamed). The preferred condiment used to be horseradish (try some!) and only changed to mustard much later on. Around the same time in Austria, a similar sausage was created.
The story of how frankfurters became known as wieners is quite convoluted and no one really knows the true story but rest assured that both cities claim to have invented the real thing. Many people who saw and ate these new flavorful sausages thought they looked very much like the dachshund, the long, low, short legged breed of dog. Therefore the slang name for the wiener or frankfurter became the dachshund sausage.
These sausages were brought to the U.S. and sold in restaurants as early as 1871. As a matter of fact, long before Nathan’s restaurant became a national icon in Coney Island, Brooklyn, there was Charles Feltman and his namesake restaurant. Feltman was a butcher who sold these new sausages in the first Coney island hot dog stand–actually an elegant place. From there the sausages made their way to the 1893 World’s fair in Chicago, where they were consumed like mad. That was the beginning of the city of Chicago’s love affair with the wiener.
Name That Doggy
So where did the term “hot dog” come from? America. More specifically–a baseball game. How American can you get? On a particularly chilly April day in 1901 at the Polo Grounds in New York, vendor Harry Stevens wanted to sell something warm to his patrons. The cold beer and ice cream were just not selling so he began selling wieners. They were an immediate sensation. One of the people who was impressed by the new ball game treat was a sports cartoonist for the New York Journal. He wanted to draw a cartoon of the sausage barking but he did not know how to spell dachshund, so he simply called them hot dogs. The name stuck.
At first these hot dogs were sold without a bun, and usually the buyer would burn their hands. That is, until an enterprising baker offered his bread as an insulator. The rest is hot dog history.
In 1939 the American hot dog went international. On their tour of the USA King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England were served hot dogs by none other than President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife. The hot dog was from then on international cuisine. U S A ! U S A !
Today hot dogs are available in millions of varieties. There are poultry dogs, veal dogs, beef dogs and even (blech!!) tofu dogs. There are dogs with cheese already inside and dogs with cornbread batter on them. Whatever dog you like, most go through the same process of creation.
What’s Inside Your Wiener
Okay, we admit it. Maybe it is best for you to not know exactly what can be legally found inside your wiener. But think about it. Have you ever really bitten a hot dog and was repulsed by some type of foreign matter? If you are one of the unlucky few, then you have our permission to stop reading this. For the rest of you, here’s a basic hot dog primer.
Most hot dogs begin with ground meat trimmings not the so-called by-products, whatever that is. Go to your local butcher. All those little pieces of meat that he trims off, are the perfect hot dog material. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Trust us, the government does watch this stuff very carefully. Really. The Department of Agriculture regulates every step of the hot dog process.
After these trimmings are ground up they are combined with the requisite spices, ice chips to keep the mixture very cold, and curing ingredients. Notice that rat hair is not part of the recipe. From here, the mixture is pumped into casings. Most hot dogs today use a celluloid casing which is removed later on in the process. If a particular company uses a natural casing like sheep’s intestine, it is left on the hot dog and the price is usually a bit higher. Both casing types are fine. There really isn’t a big difference as far as we can tell. When the casings are stuffed, they are taken to a smoke house to cook fully and maximize their flavor. This step should also kill most bacteria, making hot dogs a perfectly safe sausage.
If you are afraid of fatty foods–you must be at the wrong website–there are many brands of hot dogs that ring in at less than 100 calories and 4 grams of fat. They are actually tasty, if not preferable. There is really no excuse to not eat hot dogs. Even vegetarians can find a hot dog that will satisfy their dietary whinings. So eat them. Everyone else is.
Americans And Their Dogs
In 2008, seven billion dogs were consumed in the three month window between Memorial day and Labor day (818 hot dogs consumed every second!). New Yorkers consumed more hot dogs than any other city, beating out Chicago and Los Angeles. We love those dogs so much, that July is officially named hot dog month and 75% of all hot dog consumption occurs in that month alone. There are statistics for everything apparently.
The last question that remains is, “What is the correct way to eat a hot dog?” On a paper plate with a paper napkin, with a beer–never wine. Also be careful as to what condiments you choose. Of course we at The Belly feel that if you like it, use it… but there are guidelines put forth by the hot dog maniacs in this country. These maniacs say that the first thing that should get put on a bun is the dog. Never put the condiments between the bun and the meat, they say. Their condiment of choice is of course, mustard. Ketchup is acceptable if you are below 18 years of age or openly gay. After the mustard you put on the chunky stuff like relish, then cheese then the spices like celery salt.
It doesn’t matter how you cook ’em. We are partial to grilled or roasted, like Homer’s. But hot dogs taste just as good in water, or beer. God Bless America.
Check out page 2 for some hot dog links and this whimsical image of the New York hot dog making process.