Hot Dog History: From Frankfurt to Coney Island, An International Sausage Saga
In the United States, we unabashedly love meat. Americans eat an average of 90 pounds of chicken yearly and we have lists of foods that are familiar and comfortable. We're going to take a peek at one particular food that's been ensconced in American culture for quite a while: the hot dog.
Like a great many dishes and cultures in the world of cuisine, the United States didn't invent nor pioneer the hot dog. Let's step away from the culture of grass fed beef and wild caught Alaskan salmon for a moment and zoom over to Europe, more than 500 years ago. The term wurschten translates to "little sausage" (wurst means "sausage") and Germany boasts a variety of nearly 1,500 different types, but wurst isn't exclusive of Germany. Thus the argument begins.
Frankfurter Wurschten or Wienerwurst? Or Both?
Both, if you like. Like many food origin stories, there's a debate regarding the place that lays claim to the birth of modern hot dog. Honestly, why they'd argue over the hot dog when they have more than a thousand others is a mystery to us. However, Frankfurt, Germany, and Vienna, Austria both have a legitimate stake in this sausage saga. Vienna -- called Wien in German -- and Frankfurt both have their own very similar ones that involve thinly cased sausage that's a mixture of beef and pork. Pre-cooked, the sausages are heated in hot water so as to keep the casing intact and the wurst warm. Commonly called Wienerwurst and Frankfurter Wurschten, the argument continues, but one thing is certain: German immigrants brought these pork based beauties to the United States in the late 1800s.
They were sold in New York City in little pushcarts and, in 1871, the first hot dog stand was opened on Coney Island by a German immigrant named Charles Feltman. The popularity and success of the sausages were huge. From there, they became baseball game staples and spread widely across the United States. We even nod to the disputed origins by regularly referring to hot dogs as ballpark franks and wieners. The next time you're having a hot dog, that's 500 years of history in a bun. We recommend enjoying it with mustard, sauerkraut, and potato salad.
We pride ourselves on distribution and the knowledge of origin in our food. Whether you're searching for different types of salmon, free range pork, or a just a good old-fashioned grilled sausage, knowing where your food is from, in source and story, is an important piece of culinary lore. Food is what's been keeping us alive, after all.