If words could talk

Dog Days of Summer

Until 1901, our beloved hot dog used many aliases: frankfurter, frank, wiener, wienie, sausage, dachshund, little dog, weenie, red hot, wienerwurst and dachshund sausage.

Granted, in years gone by, the makeup of hot dogs was fat laden and of questionable origin. But rest easy because the Department of Agriculture now requires that the contents consist of high quality cuts.

Adding to your confidence level, hot dogs are a regular on space shuttle flights. (The catch is they cost the government $3,500 each and the mustard is extra).

Like with most foods, it’s always a good idea to read the label—maybe more so with hot dogs. When livers and hearts are used in any processed meat product, it must be stated on the front of the package that it contains "variety meats" (isn’t that a colorful marketing term?) or "meat byproducts."

Meat byproducts is what I find on pet food labels. But, hot dogs are still among the safest meat product you can buy. All hot dogs are cured (of what, you ask) and are cooked.

I don’t care what minerals and vitamins are supposedly in hot dogs (iron, zinc, niacin, B vitamins and seven grams of protein), unless they’re low fat (they also have 150 calories, 13 grams of fat and a lot of salt).

I’ve always equated a hot dog to a tube of tasty cholesterol.

Our appetite for hot dogs is insatiable. One can always eat more than one—and usually does. Last year’s champion hot-dog eater downed 50 with buns in 12 minutes—that’s one every 15 seconds.

Afterward, he couldn’t sit up—but he could easily roll over.

Ever heard about a brussels sprouts eating contest?

Neither have I.

Now, if y’all live down South, y’all fix up more hot dogs than anybody else––with us Western sophisticates gourmeting less than other areas of the country.

Almost half of all hot dogs are sold between May and August—with July leading the pack. It’s estimated that more than 2 billion hot dogs are bitten between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The rule of thumb at ballparks is four hot dogs are sold for every 10 tickets—that’s more than 26 million hot dogs. (And baseball fans were worried about the players going on strike).

More dogs are munched at Dodger Stadium, more than 2 million, than at any other ballpark. They would stretch to the Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Stadium.

Technically speaking, unless it’s in a bun, it’s not a hot dog. It’s a sausage.

A mystery remains; why are there are eight buns in a bag and 10 frankfurters in a package? This means you have to buy five bags of buns and four packs of dogs to come out even.

What we have here is failure to communicate between labor unions.

In the beginning, most hot dogs were sold by street vendors and they were hot (thus the name "red hots"). The bun was developed out of necessity to keep customers from burning their fingers.

It was about 1900 when the owner of the St. Louis Browns baseball team hit a home run when he introduced hot dogs to the fans.

About the same time while hearing the vendors at a game between the Giants and the Yankees hawking "get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!" a sports cartoonist drew a cartoon of barking dachshund sausages warm and happy in a soft bread roll.

He wasn’t sure how to spell dachshund—so he wrote "hot dog." People bought it because it was easier to say than dachshund sausages (albeit both are descriptive).

It took 40 years before corn dogs surfaced—down in Texas no less. Cowpokes were rolling their little doggies in corn tortillas long before the hot dogs were deep fried in cornmeal batter.

I don’t know when the stick was added.

But, it is convenient—hot dog on a stick with a fried bun. And a typical American concoction—cholesterol on a stick.

The Chinese hot dog is a cold hot dog on a stick covered with red plastic that’s peeled down as the dog is eaten. Did you visualize that one? Definitely made in China.

What about the stuff you hide the hot dog under?

Ketchup is the No. 2 favorite with an estimated 97 percent of all households having a bottle in their "icebox" at any time.

Ketsiap, incidentally, originated in China as a salty fish sauce.

The British spelled the name "ketchup" and made the stuff out of mushrooms (the favorite), anchovies and other things we don’t normally associate with ketchup. It took 85 years—1812—before tomatoes were squished as the active ingredient.

Remember when the Reagan administration for a brief shining moment decided to count ketchup as a vegetable?

I don’t think a product can be found today with the name spelled catsup.

The No. 1 additive, mustard, on the other hand, didn’t go through all the formula machinations and its history isn’t nearly as interesting. It started out with mustard seeds as the primary ingredient and stuff was added from there.

Mustarde (very French, no?) actually means "condiment" and "must" means new wine or unfermented juice which was blended with mustard powder.

Mustard is not naturally yellow; turmeric and other spices are added to brighten it up.

Here’s the standard info that you’ve grown to expect from IWCT: 70 hot dogs are consumed annually for each American and the biggest hot dog was 1996 feet long, made in 1996, to honor the 1996 Olympics in Los Angeles and more hot dogs are eaten in Los Angeles than any other city.

Ketchup was refined by the British, mustard by the French, hot dogs by the Germans—but it took American labor to mass-produce and sell them.

American labor naturalized them into the fabric of America.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor this Labor Day with a taste of history (or two).

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