Hot dogs arrived in America thanks to German and other European immigrants. At that time they were called either frankfurters, in reference to the pork sausages that originated in Frankfurt, Germany, or wieners, referring to the German name for the City Vienna (Wien) where sausages made from both pork and beef were created.
Up for serious debate is the question of who actually coined the term 'hot dog'. What is known is that the phrase has been used since the late 1800's. Some say the sausage meat was of suspect origin, others say 'hot dog' was a slang term referring to the German dachshund sausages that were used.
Regardless of etymology, it is widely agreed that the idea of serving a sausage on a roll came about due to convenience. Vendors on the streets of big cities and at baseball games, and most famously at Coney Island, discovered sausages were big sellers. The bun was paired with the sausages because they were messy and too hot to hold with bare hands.
The hot dog gained national attention when, in 1939, President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor served hot dogs to King George VI and his queen, in an effort to introduce something truly American to their royal guests. The press made such hoopla over the event that the menu was printed on the front page of the New York Times. It included:
- Virginia Ham
- Hot Dogs
- Smoked Turkey
- Cranberry Jelly
- Green Salad
- Strawberry Shortcake
- Coffee, Beer, Soft Drinks
As the story goes, the King enjoyed his hot dog so much, he asked for seconds. (Judging by the Roosevelt's menu and the King's reaction, not too much has changed since 1939 as far as American picnics go.)
Nowadays the average American consumes 60 hot dogs per year, and most of this consumption occurs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That's a lot of dogs in 3 months, but the timing isn't too surprising. Summertime is all about barbecues, picnics, and baseball, and hot dogs are the most-served food at each of these outdoor events.
Looking for a healthy hot dog is sort of like looking for a modest bikini. Yes, some are better than others, but in general you don't want to include hot dogs as a regular part of your diet. Health Magazine ranked the best and worst dogs and found a pretty good option, Applegate Farms Uncured Organic Beef Hot Dogs. Because they are uncured they don't contain the nitrates that contribute to a higher risk of cancer, and they have less sodium and fat than the average dog.
Whichever you choose, a few hot dogs during the season won't hurt you, but it's a good idea to pair them with some healthy sides. Try the Shredded Kale Salad or the super summery Green Bean and Tomato Salad. These salads travel well so you can feel confident bringing them on a picnic or to a pot luck barbecue. Bon appetit!