If you want to be a wiener instead of a loser, you’ll grab a bun and help celebrate today’s food holiday with us. July 23 is National Hot Dog Day!
It’s also National Vanilla Ice Cream Day, but again, there have been close to a dozen ice cream holidays already, but this is the only hot dog day. Fair is fair, you know?
Few things are as quintessentially American as hot dogs. Maybe baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet, but those are the biggies. Technically though, hot dogs aren’t an American invention. They are derived from sausages, which date back to at least the 9th century B.C., where they are mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey (“As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted. . .”). A modern version of the hot dog was created in Frankfurt, Germany in 1484, hence the name “frankfurters.” These pork sausages were popular during festive occasions such as imperial coronations. Austrians argue that they invented the hot dog, and point to the name “wiener” (derived from the capital, Vienna, whose German name is Wien) as proof.
Frankfurters were called “dachshund sausages” when they were introduced to America in the mid-19th century. German immigrants began selling them from push-carts in New York City’s Bowery district in the 1860s, along with milk rolls and sauerkraut. In 1871, a German baker named Charles Feltman opened a hot dog stand on Coney Island, and sold 3,684 dachshund sausages that first year. Yet another German, Antonoine Feuchtwanger, sold sausages on the streets of St. Louis in 1880. Dismayed because his customers kept walking off with the white gloves he let them use so they wouldn’t burn their hands on the hot sausages, he complained to his wife, who suggested he sell them in a split bun to eliminate the need for gloves. He turned to his brother, a baker, for assistance, and the hot dog bun was invented. Hot dogs really took off during 1893 during the Chicago World’s Fair. That same year, the German owner of the St. Louis Browns baseball team, Chris Von de Ahe, began serving hot dogs during ballgames, and this quickly became a tradition. The modern term first appeared in the 1890s at Yale University, where enterprising students could buy “hot dogs” – a sarcastic name meant to poke fun at the meat from which these sausages are made – from their dorm rooms. Hot dogs don’t really contain dog meat, of course; their ingredient list includes meat trimmings and fat (usually pork and beef); flavorings like salt, garlic, and paprika; and preservatives. Nobody will ever claim they’re healthy…but they sure are tasty!
To celebrate, we decided to sample hot dogs three different ways: boiled, grilled, and fried. Neither of us had ever tried a fried hot dog before. They all had their charms, but I personally liked the grilled best, while Tara preferred the fried. Don’t even get us started on mustard v. ketchup…