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Celebrating the hot dog

July is national hot dog month.  On this July 4th weekend we’ll take a look at this all-American edible icon.

 

Getty Images / Joan Christian

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council predicts a record number of those tubes of meat will be consumed this weekend.

Last year two and a half billion dollars worth of hot dogs were sold.  The astounding thing is, that figure was only for hot dogs that were sold in supermarkets!  That doesn’t include purchases in restaurants, sporting events, and street carts.  Personally, I wouldn’t count the ones sold at convenience stores.  I think some of those nasty looking dried up shriveled things have been rolling around on those rotisseries since there was snow on the ground.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day Americans eat 7 billion dogs.

While we’re on the subject of hot dog consumption.  We congratulate Mr. Joey Chestnut. On Friday he was the winner for the eighth consecutive year in the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest.  At the annual July 4th event he pushed down 61.

The hot dog has a few aliases.  Many years ago a common name for the hot dog was “frankfurter”. Does anyone say “frankfurter” anymore?  Nontheless, the term “frank” is still commonly used today.  Sometimes they are referred to as “footlongs”, “red hots” (at ball parks), wieners, and “tube steaks”.

Even though the hot dog is an American thing, it’s roots go back to Germany.

Historians say the first hot dog dates back to the late 1600′s when a butcher created a sausage shaped meat in the city of Frankfurt-am-Main.  Thus, “frankfurter”.

Fast forward to 1880.  Back here in the good ole U.S.A. the wife of a St. Louis butcher is credited with inventing the hot dog bun.

The butcher was selling his hot dogs on the streets of  “St. Looee”.  The problem was that when customers grabbed the very “hot” dogs, they would burn their hands.  This enterprising lady solved the dilemma by selling her husband’s delicacy encased in this new form of bread.  Simple yet genius.  Problem solved.

Today’s hot dog is available in several lengths and diameters.  It’s just a matter of preference if you like your dog to stick out at the end of the bun.

You’ve got your all beef frank.  My favorite.  Dogs are also available with a mixture of beef and pork.  Chicken and turkey varieties are also on the grocery shelf.

Different brands of hot dogs have different tastes.  It all depends on the meat, spices and casings.

Just for the record, it’s all about the traditional hot dog today.  Please, don’t feel slighted if you love corn dogs or “pigs in a blanket”.

I do have to mention the Italian hot dog.  It’s a Jersey thing.

The Italian hot dog was introduced in Newark by James “Buff” Racioppi in 1932.  Mr. Racioppi is the founder of Jimmy Buff’s, with shops in northern New Jersey that features Italian hot dogs.

This very popular Garden State original is served on an Italian roll with , of course, the hot dog along with bell peppers, onions and potatoes.

Here’s how the hot dog got its name.

The term “hot dog” originated at a 1901 baseball game played at the Polo Grounds.  In case you’re too young to remember, the Polo Grounds was located in upper Manhattan.  The venue was the home of the Giants before they fled to San Francisco.  The ball park was where the Yankees played before the first Yankee stadium was built in 1923.  The Mets played there too before Shea Stadium was constructed.

Back to the naming of the hot dog.

This sports cartoonist, Tad Dorgan was sketching during this 1901 game hearing vendors yelling out “Get your Dachshund sausages while they’re red hot”.  Dorgan made this into a cartoon.  He wasn’t sure how to spell “Dachshund”, so he called them hot dogs.  So, there you go.

What do people put on their hot dogs?

For grownups, mustard is the most popular condiment.  Kids prefer ketchup.  In New Jersey and surrounding states steamed onions, relish, and sauerkraut are popular toppings. Of course we can’t omit chili and cheese, two very popular toppings.  The Hot Dog Counsel recommends that the mustard or ketchup should go on the dog first before you add anything else.

For me, I never put too much stuff on my hot dog.  The toppings should enhance the dog, not disguise it.

Remember the old Lays potato chip slogan, “Bet you can’t eat just one”?  Hopefully you can’t or won’t eat 61 like our friend Joey Chestnut.

 

 

 

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