Hot dogs, a staple at sports events, neighborhood grills, and food markets, hold iconic status, especially in the U.S. Ever wondered how they got their name? This term for sausage in a bun comes with a backstory as diverse as its possible toppings.
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Origin of the Name
The name “hot dog” isn’t as simple as it seems; it has a multifaceted history. It’s thought that the term derived from 19th-century slang when some sausages contained dog meat, particularly in Germany. German immigrants brought their “dog” sausages to the U.S., and the name stuck.
Another theory claims that the term “hot dog” was coined during a New York Giants baseball game at the Polo Grounds. Vendors were said to be shouting, “They’re red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!” This phrase was allegedly shortened to “hot dogs” as it was easier to shout out at games.
Sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan is often credited with popularizing the term “hot dog”. During a baseball game in 1901, Dorgan supposedly heard vendors selling “hot dachshund sausages”. Inspired by this phrase, he drew a cartoon depicting barking dachshund sausages nestled warmly in rolls. Not knowing how to spell “dachshund” he simply wrote “hot dog”!
Sausages and Hot Dogs
Today, hot dogs are recognized as a specific type of sausage nestled in a bun, yet “hot dog” once referred solely to the sausage itself. The origins of sausage extend into antiquity, representing one of the earliest processed foods, with references dating back to the 9th century BC, including mentions in Homer’s Odyssey.
The connection between sausages and dogs arose from both their similar shapes and the historical use of dog meat in their production within certain cultures. German immigrants were pivotal in the evolution of the hot dog in the United States, where their sausage-making traditions culminated in the iconic bun-wrapped delicacy.
Although quintessentially American, hot dogs have European heritage, with Frankfurt, Germany, boasting a half-millennium of sausage craft, and Vienna, Austria, lending its name to the “wiener.”
The Inclusion of Buns
While the sausage is the star of the show, a hot dog wouldn’t be a hot dog without its bun. The inclusion of a bun with the sausage is a distinctly American innovation and a critical part of what makes a hot dog a hot dog.
The practice of serving sausages in buns is believed to have started with German immigrants to the United States. Vendors would sell warm sausages in rolls to customers on the street, providing a convenient and portable way to enjoy this hearty snack. Over time, this practice became more widespread and eventually evolved into the modern hot dog.
One interesting story about the origin of the hot dog bun comes from the 1904 St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition. As per the tale, Bavarian concessionaire Anton Feuchtwanger would loan his patrons white gloves to hold his piping hot sausages. However, when most gloves were not returned, he reportedly asked his brother-in-law, a baker, for help. The baker came up with long soft rolls that could hold the meat, thereby inventing the hot dog bun.