It’s the star of many a summer barbecue and holiday, particularly this month as a Coney Island eating contest featuring it marks the Fourth of July. We’re talking, of course, about the hot dog, which has its own special day on July 19.
The hot dog is as American as apple pie and baseball, whose shrines feature it as standard fare. But it is European in origin, the frankfurter, or pork sausage, dating from 13th-century Frankfurt, Germany. (The wiener, a pork-beef combo, got its start in Vienna, whose name in German is “Wien,” while the nickname “dog” referred to the suspicion — not always unfounded, unfortunately — that the sausage contained dog meat.)
Nineteenth-century German immigrants to America brought their sausages with them and are even credited with that most brilliant stroke in eating them — the bun. According to one story, a man named Feuchtwanger sold them in the Midwest with gloves so patrons wouldn’t burn their hands as they enjoyed the hot treats. It was Frau Feuchtwanger who came up with the innovation of encasing the sausages in a roll, as her hubby was losing money on all the unreturned gloves.
The frankfurter roll has also been attributed to Coney Island restaurateur/pie-maker Charles Feltman. Today, he is probably best remembered for an employee who went out on his own — Nathan Handwerker, as in Nathan’s Famous.
Coney Island and, by extension, New York is the home of what is considered the classic dog — a grilled beef frank on a bun with spicy mustard, sauerkraut and perhaps onions. New Jerseyans like theirs Italian-style, with bell peppers, onions and potatoes.
You can have your dog the Chicago way, on a poppy-seed bun and topped with just about everything but the kitchen sink — tomatoes, onions, peppers, relish, dill pickles, mustard and celery salt. Or enjoy corndogs — battered, deep-fried and presented on a stick — from Minnesota to Texas.
For some, nothing beats a hot dog that’s teeny, as in the cocktail weenie.
However you enjoy them, Happy National Hot Dog Day.