Franks. Frankfurters. Hot dogs. Dawgs. Sausages. Weenies. Wieners. Brats. Whatever you want to call them, they’re an all-American tradition.
No matter the name, the monikers refer to wrapped and rolled seasoned ground meat. Meat rolls have been on the menu, worldwide, for thousands of years. Sausages, fire-roasted and dripping with fat, were mentioned in literature as early as 800 BCE in Homer’s Odyssey.
Frankfurt-au-Main, Germany has long been credited with creating the frankfurter, though other historians testify that a butcher in the German town of Coburg actually came up with the long meat treat – once called “dachshund”— in the late 1600s.
The Viennese also lay claim, having dubbed the culinary creation a “weiner” from the word “Wein,” which is how Germans referred to Vienna.
Food historians may quibble about the origins of the hot dog, but they agree this simple staple was quickly adopted as a beloved American food in 1867, when a German baker opened a hot dog stand on New York’s Coney Island. This eventually became Nathan’s, when a Jewish immigrant from Poland started slicing hot dog rolls, filling them with the packed, rolled meat and delivering them to local laborers.
As the disputes go on about who, when and where the dog entered the American vernacular, foodies today can find them everywhere — from baseball games to food trucks to casual restaurants to the home table.
Consumption has even become a spectator sport: hot dog-eating contests draw eager viewers at a campfire, game or a county fair tournament. On July 4, Nathan’s holds a contest on Coney Island, and thousands gather to watch in person while millions tune their TVs to see the spectacle.
Last summer, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut won his 11th championship, consuming 74 hot dogs in buns in 10 minutes. But Chestnut’s mark pales in comparison to the 2012 mark set by Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi, who devoured 110 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Later that year at the Texas State Fair, he ate 60 dogs in 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
Browse your supermarket meat case to witness the dog’s popularity, There are hundreds of packages of hot dogs, with names ranging from Hebrew National and Nathan’s to Ball Park, Oscar Meyer, Colman’s, Ball Park, Sabrett, Johnsonville and others, with choices ranging from classic, ball park, kosher, gluten-free, fat-free, preservative-free, seasoned, flavored, stuffed and more.