As favourite for outdoor barbecues and meals on the run, the hot dog is considered a national food in the United States. Some 200 billion are consumed in the USA every year; about 60 per resident. Even so, its origin dates back to before America was discovered.
It all starts with the sausage
The most important ingredient - the sausage - is historic. The Babylonians and the Chinese were eating them as far back as 1500 BC, Homer mentioned them in The Odyssey, and Athena, the author of one of the very first cookbooks mentioned them in the 2nd century AD. These portions of salted meat (the word sausage comes from the Latin salsus, meaning “salt”) were one solution to the tricky problem of meat preservation.
During the Middle Ages, sausages were on the rise. In southern countries, dry sausages are made to resist the heat, while in northern climates, fresh sausages are preferred. The hot dog's ancestor was born in Frankfurt, Germany. It was a mixture of beef and pork that was spiced, then smoked.
A fetching name
At the start of the 19th century, many Germans emigrated to the United States, carrying with them not only their famous Frankfurt sausage, but also the Dachshund—better known as the sausage dog! The Frankfurter was named “dog” in reference to the short-legged dogs, and also as a joke about the origin of the meat.
Its name was quickly adopted. In 1890, the mobile stands which sold them were called “dog-carts”. You can just imagine vendors advertising their product and shouting “Hot dogs!” “Hot dogs!” This term, which was first used as a joke, has now gone down in history.
Birth of the sandwich
The birth of the hot dog in the United States is associated with the Germans. To exploit this jewel of German cooking, since 1860, many mobile vendors have travelled the streets of large cities, selling their sausages with a roll and sauerkraut.
It has also been said that in 1867, Charles Feltman, who sold pies along the beaches of Coney Island, decided to offer hot sandwiches to his customers. To make it easier, he slipped a sausage in a roll. This idea, which was revolutionary at the time, made its inventor very wealthy.
Also in the 1880's, another mobile vendor in St. Louis, Missouri, gave gloves to his customers so they wouldn't burn their fingers... until the day he asked a baker to make a roll the same length as the sausage, and split down the middle. The hot dog bun was born.