Dancing hot dogSince July is National Hot Dog Month (as everyone knows), it stands to reason that the humble tube steak gets a day of its own. Well, guess what? Today’s that day,


This much maligned, under-appreciated American food staple has a murky history, with a great many people claiming its invention, and others claiming they were the first to serve it on a bun, or the first to put mustard on one, or sauerkraut, etc.

Formally named the Frankfurter, a hotdog is a spiced beef sausage most similar to knockwurst, but tastier and small enough to fit in one hand. New York City is the place where hotdogs first took a walk on the wild side, particularly in Coney Island at the turn of the last century, even though they had been around for (?) decades before that.

Perhaps the most famous hotdog man of them all was Nathan Handwerker who, with the encouragement of his friends, a couple of struggling boardwalk buskers named Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, started selling hotdogs on Surf Ave for a nickel apiece, half the going price in Coney.

Needless to say, hotdogs were a huge hit, and today Americans consume 20 billion a year, 155 million of them on the 4th of July alone. That’s 65 hotdogs a year per person, whether they’re Nathan’s Famous, chili dogs, franks ‘n beans, barbecued dogs, supermarket franks, or the dirty water dogs from sidewalk vendors that we love so well.

Even people who don’t like hotdogs have a favorite hotdog, and everyone eats them whether they admit it or not. Here’s to the Mighty Hotdog, America’s favorite since… well, your guess is as good as anyone’s.

•Suggested Activities: Two with mustard and onions, a knish and a Snapple from a NYC sidewalk vendor.

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