Hot Dogs and Other Jiggery-pokery

hot-dogTime to celebrate! Today (July 23) is National Hot Dog Day!

The humble staple of the childhood summertime diet, hot dogs have a surprisingly rich history. We found some interesting morsels (see what we did there?) of hot dog history from (and we swear, we’re not making this up) the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council:

The origin of the hot dog: Experts believe that the hot dog we enjoy here in North America is the descendant from an earlier common European sausage, probably brought here in the mid 1800’s, by butchers of several nationalities.

hotdogs4u-weeblyShaggy-(hot)dog tale. Exactly who first served the “dachshund sausage with a roll?” There are many apocryphal claims, each of them hard to prove. One report says a German immigrant sold them, along with “milk rolls” (like a white-bread bun) and sauerkraut, from a push cart in New York City’s Bowery in the 1860’s. Another story goes that, in 1871, Charles Feltman, a German butcher, opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand selling 3,684 dachshund sausages in a milk roll during his first year in business.

1893: a year that will live in hot dog infamy. In Chicago that year, the Colombian Exposition brought thousands upon thousands of visitors, many of whom consumed large quantities of sausages sold by vendors. A popular item, fairgoers liked that these sausages were easy to eat, convenient and inexpensive. Hot dog historian (!! yes, there are hot dog historians!) Bruce Kraig, Ph.D., retired professor emeritus at Roosevelt University, says the German tourists always ate the “dachshund sausages with bread.” Kraig hypothesizes that, since the “sausage culture” is German, it is likely that Germans introduced the practice of eating the dachshund sausages, the direct predecessor of today’s hot dog, nestled in a bun.

Hot dogs – by the numbers. According to recent survey data, Americans purchase 350 million pounds of hot dogs at retail stores each year, which translates to a staggering 9 billion hot dogs. However, that huge number does not include the number of hot dogs Americans buy every year at events (canivals and fairs, concerts and sporting events). The HDSC estimates that, including those additional hot dogs they eat when they’re away from their own kitchen, Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs a year – more than twice the retail sales figures. That works out to about 70 hot dogs per person each year.

The biggest dog. The Guinness Book of World Records says the world’s longest hot dog was 65.6 feet. No word as to what condiments were served on the Frankfurter, nor how many diners were invited to chow down on the record-setting weiner.

nathans_famous_hotdog_contestGot a whole lotta dogs. Every July 4, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs holds a hot dog eating contest to determine the world champion hot dog eater. Contestants have ten minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they can. The world record is held by Joey Chestnut, who snarfed a mind-boggling 69 hot dogs (with buns!) in the allotted time in 2013.  Wikipedia also says that some contestants use a technique called Buns and Roses, in which some contestants sway violently from side to side while they eat, to encourage the wads of food to go down — but we could not independently verify this strange factoid.

Making the ‘dogs and buns come out even. One enduring mystery (and timeless frustration) why hot are often packaged ten to the 1 lb package — and hot dog buns are sold in packages of eight, necessitating that you buy four packs of hot dogs and five bags of buns to have the two ingredients come out even. (And, unless you’re hosting a cookout for several dozen kids, how are you going to use up 40 hot dogs and buns?) The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes, them again) says that, sometime in the 1940s, manufacturers settled upon the 10-t0-a-package hot dog standard. But commercial bakery pans are designed to bake rolls in clusters of four, in pans designed to hold eight rolls.

Favorite hot dog condiment? Fooducate says that mustard is the hot dog topping of choice for adults, but that ketchup is the kid favorite.  Many folks swear that sauerkraut (or onions, or pickle relish – sweet or dill) are necessary for true hot dog enjoyment.

Hot dog hubbub. Fooducate also says that 7-Eleven is the top hot dog seller in the U.S., clocking in at 100 million dogs per year. Dodgers’ Stadium sells more hot dogs than any other sports venue.

FDR_BritishRoyals_hotdog_picnic_1939A meal that will live in infamy? In what may be the fanciest dinner that featured the humble ‘dog, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt served hot dogs to the King and Queen of England at a picnic in Hyde Park, New York, during the royals’ visit to America in 1939. Supposedly FDR’s mother was horrified by the President’s menu choice, but “the menu also included more delicate fare fit for a King and Queen.”

Speaking of fancy hot dogs, if you’re worried about the right (and wrong) way to prepare, serve, and eat a hot dog, this video on hot dog etiquette should put all those fears to rest.