Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hot Diggity Dog

For a long time it was in my head that sausage came to us from Germany. It was a little surprising to learn that not only the Romans and Greeks made sausage, but Babylonians 3,500 years ago enjoyed spiced meats stuffed into animal intestines. The Romans called it salsus which evolved into our word ‘sausage.’ Because of the ribald festivities at Rome’s pagan festival of Lupercus that included sausage, the early Catholic Church outlawed Lupercalia and made eating sausage a sin. The fourth-century Emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great also banned sausage consumption. Much like the case of prohibition in twentieth-century America, the Romans continued to enjoy their sausage in bootlegged fashion. Eventually, like the Americans later, Roman lawmakers repealed the ban.

In the mid-nineteenth century the Butchers’ guild in Frankfurt, Germany came up with a sausage that was spiced, smoked and packed in a thin, almost transparent casing. It had a slightly curved shape and they called it a “frankfurter.” The dachshund breed of dog was popular and somehow the new sausage was sometimes called “dachshund sausage.” That name followed the frankfurter to America. In the 1890s, Charles Feltman, a baker from Frankfurt began selling sandwiches in Coney Island using his hometown frankfurter. He served the frank on a roll with a topping of mustard and sauerkraut. The success of Feltman’s sandwiches allowed him to open his own restaurant and the frankfurter was forever after identified with Coney Island.

In 1906 the slender frankfurter was still a novelty in America and known by several different names: dachshund sausages, frankfurters, franks, wieners and sometimes red hots. They had become popular at baseball games in New York where the vendors would shout out, “Get your red hot dachshund sausages!” One story goes that a popular cartoonist named Tad Dorgan was attending a baseball game one day when heard this call and began sketching a cartoon of a real dachshund smeared with mustard and wrapped in a bun. Back at home he refined his cartoon but couldn’t spell dachshund so captioned his picture, “Get your hot dogs!” The name stuck.

How often do Americans eat hot dogs? Every second of every day 450 hot dogs are eaten in the US. Among Americans who eats the most? New Yorkers eat more than any other city in the country.

We usually think of a hot dog as being an affordable bite to eat. The most expensive hot dog in the world can be had at Serendipity 3 in New York City. It’s called the “Haute Dog” and is grilled with white truffle oil and topped with duck foie gras and truffle butter. It costs an unbelievable $69.

The world record holder for the most hot dogs consumed in a ten minute period is Joey Chestnut, the six-time winner of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest who set the record in 2009 when he ate 68 hot dogs and buns. He won again in 2011 with a total of 62 hot dogs.

According to the National Sausage and Hot Dog Council, the most commonly used condiment is mustard which is the topping preferred by thirty-two percent of Americans. The second place finisher, with twenty-three percent of the vote is ketchup. Chili takes third place with seventeen percent of the vote.


  1. Very interesting! I love hog dogs with mustard, mayo and onions. Sometimes I use chili and have a chili dog. I'm sorry that I don't factor into the 450 people per second. Even though I love them, I don't have them that often.

  2. The Babylonians eating sausage 3,500 years ago? The Cajuns (and all others) of south Louisiana have a long history of using sausage as one of the main staples of many everyday meals. Boudin sausage is extremely popular, rice dressing in a sausage casing sometimes with ground pork. But leave it to the Cajuns to broaden the palate with crawfish, shrimp, gator, you name it. And a boudin hot dog? Hmm . . .


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America