What do hot dogs and Romans have in common? Everything! Hot dogs have been around way longer than our 4th of July cookouts have been a thing and since then people have been learning the best way to cook a hot dog. Historians think they go back to Roman times. Romans: they’re just like us! In those days, Romans would starve pigs for a week before roasting them. As the story goes, a cook named Gaius roasted a pig for the Roman emperor Nero. Since the pig hadn’t eaten in a week when Gaius cut it open, the pig’s intestines fell out all hollow and just begging to be stuffed with meats and worn.
Gaius made pork history, and he knew it too. He said Truer words were never spoken. From there, sausage made its way to what we now lovingly call Germany. Two towns are still feuding today over who can claim the original hotdog. Frankfurt Germany says they’re the home of the hot dog since they invented the frankfurter in 1484. But Vienna Austria says that’s bull. The wienerwurst came first.
Whether you’re team Frankfurt or team Vienna you can’t argue with the fact that we owe both of them for our hot dog habit. But frankfurters still needed to make the journey to America and into the bun. After all, without the bun, a hot dog is just a wiener. German immigrants came to the U.S. and started selling wieners from street carts with milk rolls and sauerkraut. Gyros are great, and all but franks are the original street meat. It’s not clear who gave them the name hot dogs, but it probably came from lingo they yelled out like ‘piping hot dachshunds.’
But how did hot dogs go from a street treat to an American classic? Sit down Germany and Austria. Poland has arrived to make a hot dog history. Nathan Handwerker was a Jewish
immigrant from Poland. He worked at a hot dog cart in Coney Island, where he made $11 a week. He lived off of franks, and he slept on the kitchen floor until he saved enough money to start his stand to compete with the one he used to work for Nathan’s Famous was born.
And with it America’s taste for wieners. Hot dogs were such an instant hit that Eleanor Roosevelt served them to King George VI during his visit to America. We can’t say that’s the menu we would’ve chosen, but it worked. The king even asked for seconds. And just like that, they became a symbol of American eats. Now America has a yearly hot dog eating contest at Coney Island. ‘Are you ready to meet the eaters?’ Grilled dogs are a staple at summer barbecues and cookouts. And you can’t go to a 4th of July party without seeing a few dozen rolling around on the grill. As a country, we buy more than every year.
There are entire restaurants devoted to them gourmet versions and deep-fried dogs on a stick. And even as more people go meatless, their place in our hearts remains. Vegetarians and vegans get their frankfurter to fill with soy and veggie dogs. We might not claim them as our own, but hot dogs are a true American icon. With mustard and relish, you’ll guarantee