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Published:June 6th, 2008 16:13 EST
American Junk Food: The Hot Dog

American Junk Food: The Hot Dog

By Daniel Mabee

Frank. Weenies. Wiener. Frankfurt. Hot dog. Whatever its name, the little sausage that could has been a part of the American lifestyle for more than a century. A favorite at ballparks, movie theaters and backyard barbecues, the hot dog has earned every ounce of its immense fame. It was loved 100 years ago, and its outlook is only getting brighter.

The hot dog`s invention is a point of debate. The citizens of Frankfurt, Germany claim they were enjoying das weenies as early as the 15th century. Vienna, Austria begs to differ, claiming the Vienna sausage as the hot dog`s distant ancestor. We do know that a German immigrant named Charles Feldman began selling sausages on bread at Coney Island around 1870.

The first definite reference to hot dogs appeared in the Knoxville Journal on September 28, 1893, "It was so cool last night that the appearance of overcoats was common, and the stoves and grates were again brought into comfortable use. Even the weinerwurst men began preparing to get the "hots dogs" ready for sale Saturday night."

What is best on a hot dog is another point of debate. The United States National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (it exists, I swear) reports that mustard is America`s favorite condiment to layer on a bun, followed by ketchup. Some vendors in Chicago, however, refuse to even carry ketchup because they feel it overpowers the taste of the sausage! Of course, the options are truly endless: relish, onions, pickles, chili, cheese, tomatos-- hot dogs are endlessly customizable.

The "Coney Dog" features loads of chili, onion and mustard-- but, ironically, cannot be found anywhere near its namesake in Brooklyn. Indeed, the vast majority of dogs sold in New York (a city that eats more hot dogs than any other) come served simply with mustard and steamed onions.

America consumes an incredible amount of hot dogs of various sorts. 7-11 alone sells approximately 100 million a year. Although the larger fast food chains such as McDonald`s have stuck to hamburgers throughout the years, a story for another time, restaurants such as Sonic and Dairy Queen offer hot dogs to hungry patrons, and hot dog stands can be found in major cities across America.

In July of last year, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut broke the world hot dog eating record, devouring 66 in 12 minutes, previously held by Takeru Kobayashi with 53 and a half.

Even if you just want one, a hot dog is a great choice for any meal of the day. Fast, simple and flexible, it`s one of America`s greatest junk foods.

We may not have invented it, but we`ll darn well eat it.

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