Out & About Magazine August 2014

Page 25

The Bun Appears The next question is, who decided to put this sausage-like creation on a bun? Again, history is murky and hinges on a couple of popular legends and bits of scholarship. One story—largely disproven—is that the modern bun-nestled hot dog was invented out of necessity at 1904’s Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis by a Bavarian food vendor who loaned white gloves to his patrons so they wouldn’t burn their fingers on his hot sausages. After too few of the gloves were returned to him, the vendor supposedly worked out a deal with his baker brother to provide long rolls to serve the same purpose. Shazam!—the modern hot dog! In fact, says hot dog historian Bruce Kraig, a retired professor emeritus at Illinois’ Roosevelt University and author of the book Man Bites Dog, the German tradition had always been to eat sausages with bread. There are reports, Kraig says, that one pushcart vendor in New York City’s Bowery was selling sausages on milk rolls (with sauerkraut, no less) as early as the 1860s. Meanwhile, the first hot dog stand in Coney Island was opened in 1871 by German butcher Charles Feltman. As Feltman’s dog domain expanded, eventually his bread slicer, Nathan Handwerker, split off and started his own hot dog stand in 1916, offering his product for half the price his former boss was charging. The Nathan’s Famous hot dog brand still exists. The origin of the term “hot dog” is also up for serious debate. There are a number of popular stories that have circulated for years. One—which seems to be based primarily on hearsay and legend —is that of New York Journal cartoonist Tad Dorgan witnessing vendors at New York’s Polo Grounds hawking red-hot “dachshund” sausages from carts with boiling water sometime between 1902 and 1906. The story goes that, not being able to spell dachshund, Dorgan drew the vendors as selling hot “dogs”—dachshunds on rolls.

But accounts of sausages on buns being referred to as hot dogs exist from at least a decade earlier. Barry Popick, another hot dog historian from Roosevelt University (yes, there are two of them!), notes that 1894 articles in the Yale University newspaper referred to students eating hot dogs both in the literal sense and as a veiled joke regarding what they suspected was the original source of the meat. The truth, says Kraig, is far less colorful but makes a lot more sense. German immigrants brought to the U.S. both the wiener and the wiener dog, and were whimsical enough to notice the obvious similarities. So the connection between long sausages on rolls and canines was probably there all along.

The Sports Connection The connection between hot dogs and sports, in many ways, was there all along, too, only not quite as far back. But certainly as long as there have been organized sports in the United States, there have been hot dogs in the hands of fans. For instance, one of the integral parts of the first enclosed baseball park—Brooklyn’s Union Grounds—was a saloon frequented by German immigrants. It’s been confirmed that the establishment sold beer, and it’s easy enough to assume that where one found Germans and beer, there could have been frankfurters. More solid evidence suggests that the same incident that served as the basis of one disproven origin story for the name “hot dog” did actually figure largely in the sale of hot dogs at baseball games. Remember the earlier reference to vendors at New York’s Polo Grounds? That vendor was Harry M. Stevens, a printer-turnedconcessionaire who, the story goes, was faced with a cold April day and no hot foods. He instructed a worker to go buy an equal amount of rolls and all the “dachshund sausages” he could lay his hands on. Stevens then sold them from boiling water tanks. These “red hots” became so popular he added them to an expanded menu. Whether the incident is true or not, it’s been documented that since around the beginning of the 1900s, hot dogs became more or less ubiquitous at American sporting events. Even players partook of the ball park staple. While not a gourmet, famed slugger Babe Ruth was noted for putting away copious amounts of food, and he’s reputed to have once consumed 12 hot dogs and eight bottles of soda between games of a double-header. Even modern day players have been known to down a dog or two during games. But why the longstanding relationship? Eric Mittenthal, vice president for public affairs at the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, suspects there are a number of reasons. First is good design. ►

Photo provided by Aramark at Citizens Bank Park


f you’ve ever sat in the stands of a sporting event eating a humble hot dog, you’ve held in your hands history on a bun. The hot dog represents culinary evolution in the transition of the traditional sausage to what we now think of as a frankfurter. And its modest beginning as German street food gives hints about the migratory patterns of 19th century Europeans to the United States. What’s more, its long association with athletics makes the stadium dog one of the few remaining bits of the American sports experience that both you and your great-grandparents could have shared. There weren’t batting helmets or numbers on uniforms back in baseball’s formative years, but there were hot dogs for sale at the ball park. Before hot dogs ever made it to the American baseball and football events, however, they were simple sausages brought to us compliments of the good people of Europe. But where exactly modern iteration of the wiener emerged is up for some debate. Depending on whom you ask, the first version of the hot dog came into being in the German city of—wait for it—Frankfurtam-Main. The people of Vienna, Austria, meanwhile, claim the name wiener as their own, suggesting it was invented there in 1487. Others say that the true precursor to our hot dogs emerged in Coburg, Germany, in the 1600s, created by an enterprising butcher, Johann Georghehner, who later took his creation to Frankfurt, where it became popular. The truth of the matter, culinary historians say, is that plenty of countries brought their own sausage traditions to the United States during the huge wave of immigration in the mid-1800s, so there’s really no way to tell who, specifically, can be credited.

Philly Cheese Steak Dog - Philly Frank topped with Philadelphia cheese steak, served “wit or wit out” onions.


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