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July 19: celebrate National Hot Dog Day (and its history)

6 min read

Originally written on July 19, 2022 – updated 2023

The sun is out, you’re outside, at the amusement park, in a county fair, or elsewhere, and the scent of a thousand different street foods fill the air, despite one stands out above all the rest. It’s rich, savory…basically the smell of mysterious meat products put into one delicious sausage casing, broiled up on a flame grill, and sent out on a bun with all the possible fixings and sauces.
National Hot Dog Day, on July 19, celebrates this delicious treat and its long history!
After all, in the Dog Days of Summer, who doesn’t like a hot dog with all their favorite fixings?

A lot of people are going to have beautiful memories of eating hot dogs. For some this reminds them of some of the fairs that they used to go to when they were younger while, for others, it may remind them of the barbecues that they used to have with their families. Or, maybe a hot dog is always your go-to snack when you go to a football, volleyball or basketball game still today!
There is no denying that they are tasty, and National Hot Dog Day is the perfect excuse for you to indulge in this treat!
Of course, hot dogs can be purchased and enjoyed at any time of the year, however this day is absolutely the day we hold them in the highest regard.

As we already know, a hot dog is simply a steamed or grilled sausage sandwich whereby the sausage is typically served within a finger bun, which is partially sliced to fit the sausage inside.
The sausage used is a frankfurter or a wiener, basically a Vienna sausage.
While the deep origins of the hot dog can be traced back to either Frankfurt or Vienna (we’ll let them slog it out for the title of true creator), the American hot dog dates back to the 1860’s, when German immigrants started selling them from stands in New York City, and condiments and preparation vary regionally. For example, some of the typical garnishes include olives, bacon, coleslaw, grated cheese, chili, jalapenos, sauerkraut, onions, while typical condiments include cheese sauce, relish, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.

In the mood for an all-beef Chicago dog loaded with toppings on a poppy seed roll? Or you prefer a Texas Chili Dog? Or maybe the basic, original New York dog is all you’re looking for. Regardless, wherever you are in the world, you can try a unique variation on this once-German/Austrian (whoever you want to believe) tradition.
And you should know some trivia about hot dogs, including knowing that the term itself was derived in the 19th century, at a time when German immigrants brought their own culinary traditions with them to the new world! It’s believed they brought to New York America’s first hot dogs, originally referred to as a dachshund sausage, due their long shape that resembled the dachshund pups. Around 1870, Charles Feltman, a German immigrant, began to sell hot dogs out of a stand on Coney Island. He sold over 3,600 frankfurters in a bun that year alone!

In details, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, is traditionally credited with originating the frankfurter. However, this claim is disputed by those who assert that the popular sausage – known as a “dachshund” or “little-dog” sausage – was created in the late 1600’s by Johann Georghehner, a butcher, living in Coburg, Germany. According to this report, he later traveled to Frankfurt to promote his new product.
In any case, the origin of the word “hot dog” stirs as much debate as the existence of UFOs and riles serious hot dog historians. Some say the word was coined in 1901 at the New York Polo Grounds on a cold April day. Vendors were hawking hot dogs from portable hot water tanks shouting “They’re red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!”
A New York Journal sports cartoonist, Tad Dorgan, observed the scene and hastily drew a cartoon of barking dachshund sausages nestled warmly in rolls. Not sure how to spell “dachshund” he simply wrote “hot dog!” The cartoon is said to have been a sensation, thus coining the term “hot dog.” However, historians have been unable to find this cartoon, despite Dorgan’s enormous popularity.
Other culinary historians point to college magazines where the word “hot dog” began appearing in the 1890s. The term was current at Yale in the fall of 1894, when “dog wagons” sold hot dogs at the dorms. The name was a sarcastic comment on the provenance of the meat. References to dachshund sausages and ultimately hot dogs can be traced to German immigrants in the 1800s. These immigrants brought not only sausages to America, but dachshund dogs. The name most likely began as a joke about the Germans’ small, long, thin dogs. In fact, even Germans called the frankfurter a “little-dog” or “dachshund” sausage, thus linking the word “dog” to their popular concoction.

While we cannot be completely sure how or even when National Hot Dog Day was created, we do know that it was created as a nod to National Hot Dog Month in July by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council to highlight this treat. Hot dogs became a household name in the late 19th century when casual food lover and baseball team owner of the St. Louis Browns, better known to some as the Baltimore Orioles, Chris Von de Ahe brought the two together at his own amusement park.

Either way, National Hot Dog Day is an international event, and so where it begins and who sponsors it tends to vary by region.
In the USA, for example, it’s primarily the industry partners that participate in promoting it, whereas in other countries around the world it may be historical organizations celebrating the role it played in their history.
The Frankfurter was named for the Germany city of Frankfurt, where it was said to originate, and there’s even multiple varieties of Hot Dogs!
It seems that the original hot dogs came in a natural casing, which in case you didn’t know, were made from the small intestines of sheep. Intestines were regularly used for making all kinds of sausages, including hotdogs.
Then you have skinless hotdogs, in order to hold them together they’re cooked in a cellulose casing that gets taken off when they get packaged. Since cellulose is cheaper than intestine, this is often how the delicious Kosher Hot Dogs are often made.
National Hot Dog Day celebrate all their versions.

And so…how to celebrate?
The best way is to serve yourself up a great meal with hot dogs (or tofu dog, for those of you who prefer a meatless version). Another way to celebrate National Hot Dog Day is by making your own hot dog creation. Hot dogs are typically served with ketchup, mustard, and onions, depending on your taste.
However, why not have fun experimenting with different toppings, to see what sort of creations you can come up with?
There are really many different options, including crumbled gorgonzola, baked beans, grilled pineapple, caramelized onions, and much more.
Crispy bacon is another popular one.
Or, why not go for something completely unusual and out-of-the-box? You never know, you may be able to come up with the next big thing in hot dogs…

Images from web – Google Research

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