FoodUnwrapping the mystery of hot dogs: A German delicacy takes American streets by storm

Unwrapping the mystery of hot dogs: A German delicacy takes American streets by storm

Few people know the history of the hot dog.
Few people know the history of the hot dog.
Images source: © Getty Images | Ivan
11:00 AM EST, January 25, 2024

The basic version of a hot dog requires: a sausage, a bun, and condiments, making it an easy-to-prepare dish that is budget-friendly. While anyone can whip one up, not many know where it originated from or why the English word dog is associated with it. Rest assured, no four-legged friends were harmed in the making of hot dogs, so let's take a closer look at this street fast food phenomenon.

Origins of the hot dog

Contrary to popular belief, the common American hot dog originates from Germany. There are many sources and they provide different dates for its creation. Some suggest that hot dogs were first made in the 15th century in Frankfurt on the Main, while others point to the 1600s. According to history, this is when the sausages named dachsund, or dachshund, were introduced. The name was given due to its characteristic shape, which we are familiar with today.

The German society feasted on these early forms of hot dogs, making them an incredibly popular dish. This now ubiquitous fast food landed in America with a wave of German immigrants in the 19th century. A big thanks to Charles Feltman, who in 1871, established the first hot dog stand on Coney Island in New York. He sold the traditional Frankfurters in a buttered bun with toppings.

The "hot dog" name mystery

The term 'hot dog' has a connection with an unverified story from 1901. Credit goes to vendor Harry Stevens, who decided to vend hot sausages in buns during polo matches in New York. His catchy sales line was They're red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot!, meaning "They're sizzling! Buy your dachshunds while they're steaming hot!" No surprise, he did brisk business.

Then a cartoonist working for the seller, unable to translate the word dachshund into English, decided to christen it 'hot dog', and drew a quick sketch of a food stand to go along with it. Henceforth, this term was used synonymously for buns with sausages. It was only during World War II, due to the changing global political landscape, that Americans started exclusively using the term 'hot dog'. The humble hot dog only arrived in Poland in the 1980s, and with the occasional unavailability of sausages, they developed a unique variation by adding an onion and mushroom mixture.

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