Hot dog, footlong, frankfurter, weiner - call it anything, but the lip-smacking delicacy has been one of the most favourite street side snacks ever. It includes a cooked sausage traditionally grilled or steamed and placed between a sliced bun, garnished with a relish of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, onions, cheese, and sometimes even chillies, olives or coleslaw. Slurping already? Well, the sausage delight that you munch on so fondly today has had quite a journey. Originally hailing from Germany, the snack was imported from Germany to the United States where it became the food-on-the go for working class men, who didn’t have the luxury to either sit for a lavish meal or splurge on it. The hot dog carts and stands play a significant role in the changing food ethics of the 19th and 20th century America, especially New York and Chicago street cuisine. The preparations and condiments vary from region to region, but the popularity prevails, and it is slowly becoming a rage in Asian and Southeast Asian parts of the world too.
The Multiple Theories
There are multiple stories of the origin of hot dogs, so much so that it is difficult to assess the true beginning. According to National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, in the year 1987, the city of Frankfurt saw a 500th year celebration of the hot dog because it was believed that Frankfurters originated in Frankfurt, Germany. However, the claim was disputed by a host of food historians who pointed out that ‘dachshund’ or little dog sausage was a brainchild of Johann Georghehner in the late 1600’s. He was a butcher living in Coburg, Germany, who later travelled to Frankfurt to sell his product where he added beef to the mixture and sold it as Frankfurter. The Frankfurter, which took the city by storm soon after, became the favourite snack of the locals.
Since the 14th century, the sausages were offered to people during public events, especially in mass events like Coronations. Frankfurters are also popular as ‘weiner’ or Wiener Würstchen (Würstchen means "little sausage") in German speaking countries, especially Vienna, from where it supposedly gets its name Weiner and usually contains pork as opposed to beef-based Franks.Frankfurters soon travelled around the world with German immigrants in the 19th century and was adopted most readily by America. It especially became popular in the time of the Great Depression as the cheap snack alternative for the working class men. Legend has it that a German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling them as sausage rolls in a cart at the Bowery district of New York City in 1871. The popularity spread like a house on fire towards the south, and in 1893 when the snack was served at a baseball park, it set the roots of the deep connection between baseball game and hotdog that we know of today.
The Story of the Bread
Another legend that persists is the novel idea by a German immigrant’s wife Mrs. Feuchtwanger. Feuchtwangers sold hot dogs on the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, US, providing the customers with gloves for better handling of the sausage. But it so happened that the Feuchtwangers were loosing out on money as the customers would not return the gloves. It was then that she suggested they should sell the sausages in a bun.
The Secret Behind the Name 'Hot Dog’
There is also an interesting story behind the unique nomenclature. Harry M Stevans, an American sports concessionaire whose vendors sold German sausages and rolls to spectators at the old New York Polo Grounds, called the snack as “Hot Dachshund Sandwiches”, but a cartoonist who wanted to sketch the stall of a famous Baseball ground of New York for the New York Post journal couldn’t spell ‘daschund’ , and referred to them as ‘hot dogs’, and from there the name caught on. This is still a conjecture though, as the archival cartoon has still not been found.
Another possible link is in the prevailing slangs associated with sausages. The term dog has been used as a popular synonym for sausages since 19th century, which according to popular rumours were made of a dog meat.
Franks, Wieners, or the Americanised hot dog, we can’t stop loving this sausage relish. No wonder it is ruling our hearts for over 500 years!
About Sushmita SenguptaSharing a strong penchant for food, Sushmita loves all things good, cheesy and greasy. Her other favourite pastime activities other than discussing food includes, reading, watching movies and binge-watching TV shows.