Hot Dog! The Fascinating, Fabulous Frankfurters
There are dozens of stories about this summertime favorite.
Frankfurters, weenies, wieners, franks or red hots, they can be made with turkey, beef, or pork. They can be seasoned six ways to Sunday. They can be cocktail size or humongous Rem-dogs. They are cured, smoked and then boiled, steamed, fried, grilled or roasted. What ever you call them or however you cook them , hot dogs are a summer time favorite.
I notice that as the temperture rises so do the hot dogs sales at TCC. It started me thinking and seeing as how I haven't done one of my historical pieces in awhile......
It all started with the sausage. The first reference I could find was in Homer's Odyssey written in 850. That would make sausages the worlds oldest processed food ! Supposedly it was invented by Gaius chef to Emperor Nero Claudius. The story goes a forgetful butcher forgot to gut his pig before roasting. The recipe called for starving the pig a few days before slaughter as to reduce the amount of fat . When Gaius sliced open the pig to check if the meat was fit for consumption he notice the intenstines expanded like a balloon. If I stuffed that with meat scraps and cracked wheat, it will make a fine and inexpensive meal for the servants, he thought. Venison, beef scrap, cracked wheat and seasonings became the first sausage.
The version we have all have come to know and love was created sometime around 1484 in Frankfurt Germany, and quickly travelled to Austria ( pronounced Wien in German) and then through-out Europe. Each palate created it's own version and sometime around 1850 the sausage came to America. Originally nicknamed the" daschund sausage" for its peculiar shape, the frankfurter was brought to light by the ingenuity of Charles Feldman. Feldman fitted a pie cart with a tin box and coal stove which he steeped his franks in. His brother-in-law was a baker and formed a long, light and airy roll and the rest was history. Feldman sold 3684 franks that summer on Coney Island and eventually became a multi-millionaire developing the beach front with restaurants, hotels, amusements and beer gardens. As the popularity of Felmans creation increased so did its price (supply & demand have been around along time). The frankfurt hit a high of 10cents and Feldman's employee Nathan Handweiker decided with a small stand and less overhead he could sell his own franks for a nickel, hence Nathan's Hot Dog of Coney Island fame. It is rumored he borrowed the money from singing waiters Eddie Canton and Jimmy Durante. His first counter girl was Clara Bowtinelli who later changed her name to Clara Bow and is widely thought to be America's first movie star.
Meanwhile Antoine Feuchtwager was selling his version of the "red hot" out in St Louis. Antione marketed his sandwich at the Chicago World's Fair which led to it's adoption by major league baseball. You can figure it out from here. One interesting note, when King George VI visited Franklin D. Roosevelt back in the last century , he was treated to a picnic lunch featuring the American Hot Dog. He enjoyed it so much, he broke Royal protocol and asked for another.
Honestly I found so many fables and stories surrounding the hot dog that I could write a book. Amazing , the simple little sausage fit for a king. By the way the average American eats just over 60 wieners a year, so pace yourselves and enjoy a summertime tradition.