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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Iannelli-Rubin

Let's Get Frank.

Frankfurters, wieners, red hots, floaters, hot dogs or maybe even tube steaks? - call them what you will, hot dogs are a classic American summer grill food! Did you know that hot dogs are not native to the USA at all? With the kick-off to summer approaching, it was important to me to spend some time talking about the famous dogs that make their debut on Memorial Day Weekend.

Historians believe that hot dogs can be traced to era of the infamous Roman emperor Nero, whose cook, Gaius, may be the person who linked the first sausages. You see, in ancient Rome, it was customary to starve pigs for one week before slaughter. According to legend, Gaius was watching over his kitchen when he realized that one pig had been fully roasted, but somehow not cleaned. Yikes! In an attempt to see if the pig was edible or not, Gaius, then stuck a knife into the belly of the pig and out popped the pig's intestines! The intenstine were empty because of the starvation and puffed from the roasting heat. Gaius then exclaimed, “I have discovered something of great importance!”. It was at this point that the sausage was created. Over the years, the sausage traveled all through Europe making its way to Germany, a country that came to adopt the "wiener" as its own to be savored with beer and kraut. Today, both Frankfurt (frankfurter) and Vienna (wienerwurst) lay claim to the creation of the modern German staple.

Regardless of where it originated, how did the hot dog get from Germany to the USA? With German immigrants coming to the New World in the 1800s, so came all of their culinary creations. It is believed that the first hot dogs, "dachshund sausages", were sold by German immigrants in push carts in New York in the late 1860s. The first hot dog stand was opened on Coney Island by German immigrant, Charles Feltman, for 10 cents a piece. It was at that stand that a hardworking, Jewish immigrant from Poland, Nathan Handwerker worked slicing buns. Nathan slept on the floor of the kitchen, and lived on hot dogs alone. After a year of slicing buns and saving money, Nathan opened a competing hot dog stand, across from Charles Feltman's stand. A savy business man, Nathan charged only 5 cents for his hot dogs. As you can imagine, people flocked to Nathan Handwerker's stand. Nathan is the man responsible for popularizing the hot dog in the USA with this and the birth of Nathan's Famous hot dogs.

Over the years, many brands of hot dogs have hit our local markets, Sabretts, Hebrew National, Ballpark to name a few. In our house, our favorite go to is Hebrew National. They are made from 100% premium cuts of beef and have been using the same spice blend since 1905. While hot dogs may not be an ideal "healthy choice", they are a must and a family favorite to kick-off to the summer grilling season. We relish in grilling them up, literally.

I typically like to slice them up while they are grilling, to boost the grill flavor in the dog and so that they have more nooks and crannies to get my toppings into. Let's get frank, hot dogs are perfect for summer, not only because they are cheap (even gourmet ones), but because you can eat them easily whether walking around the beach or relaxing in the park or your very own backyard. A classic dog with mustard or ketchup is delicious, but have you ever tried to dress them up and make a meal out of them! Oh my have got to give it a try.

Whatever your flavor...they are a must to kick-off summer this weekend.


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