I am not sure that I even appreciated that there was a global history for a hot dog but it’s true and we know because we see them wherever we travel. They are as American and ubiquitous as the other fast food staple, hamburgers, and have been around for a lot longer… to the tune of 20,000 years in some form or other.
The love of the modern hot dog probably started with the influx of German immigrants in the 1800s. They brought with them their love of sausages and the skills to make them. Street vendors sold sausages in bread as one of the first fast foods. Fast it might have been but probably not too hygienic and there were always questions about the ingredients. (What breed of dog exactly?).
There are as many theories about the origins of the name Hot Dog as there are varieties of hot dog, and all of them sound unlikely. It’s probably a matter of mispronunciation rather than an indication of the class of puppy used. There were, however, plenty of rumours about what might possibly be the main constituent of the early hot dog. The manufacturers were considered to be the American equivalent of the English Sweeny Todd, the mad barber of Fleet Street who would cut the throats of clients and render them into meat pies with the aid of a friendly baker of his acquaintance. It makes the “variety meats” (poetic way to describe offal) said to be used in some hot dogs sound quite mouthwatering in comparison!
It’s not only the hot dog meat that differs between manufacturers but also the method of cooking. Some are roller-grilled, some flat-grilled and some heated in water. There are even regional garnishes, ranging from onions, chilli, fried peppers, cheese, to lettuce and salsa. The bread served with the sausage could be French baguette, soft buns, toasted buns or even pitta. Condiments are also wide-ranging, from the traditional ketchup and mustard to tangy barbecue sauce, piccalilli relish and mayonnaise.
I am not a lover of hot dogs but I can understand the appeal. They are iconic and cheap and they have a long and chequered history. Hot Dog – A Global History charts that story in a most amusing fashion. This book would be welcomed by any lover of food history or anyone who has happy memories of time spent at sports events eating this classic snack.
Cookbook review: Hot Dog – A Global History
Author: Bruce Kraig
Published by: Reaktion Books
Price: £8.99, $15.95US
Food history book review by Chrissie Walker © 2018