Americans and Hot Dogs
March 18, 2011 | Permalink
While the popular saying is “as American as apple pie,” it’s hard to believe that Americans consume enough apple pie to rival the estimated 20 billion hot dogs a year that the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates Americans consume. Math whizzes will realize immediately that this breaks down to 450 hot dogs being consumed every second, or to 70 hot dogs per American per year.
Seriously (or not), most travelers will consume a hot dog (or many hot dogs) during their wanderings, so it seems logical to devote some thought and blog space to all things hot dog. We could, in fact, write pages on regional specialties and varieties of Le Dog, covering not only toppings but also cooking style, types of meat, buns, and even size. Hot dog fans themselves vary, with many simply loving any dog, any way, but others having decided preferences for a particular rendition, e.g., steamed rather than grilled, beef rather than pork, mustard with no onions.
Here’s where the traveling hot dog fan has a great opportunity to both widen their culinary tastes and learn a bit about this nation’s hot dog cuisines. In Cincinnati, for example, you’ll find your hot dog smothered in chili and cheese, with chopped onions and maybe mustard. The chili recipe for these will often include such unexpected spices as nutmeg, chocolate, and cinnamon. Indeed, chili dogs themselves vary tremendously. In West Virginia, you’ll get a hot dog nestled in a steamed bun, blanketed with a no-beans chili-sauce and creamy coleslaw. And although you can now find them everywhere, next time you munch a corndog, give a salute to Texas, where it was invented for the 1942 state fair.
Within a single state—or even within a single city—you may encounter classic regional versions of the hot dog that natives will swear are the “real dog” of their town or state.
From a New York City sidewalk cart, for example, you’re likely to get boiled beef hot dogs garnished with mustard, onion sauce, and sauerkraut. Yet classic in a NYC deli is the flat-grilled hot dog. It you wander into western upstate New York, you’ll encounter the “white hot” dog, a hot dog that’s literally off-white in color because it isn’t cured in the conventional way—though you may not notice as it’ll be smothered under a hot chili sauce, plus onions and mustard. If you’d like to check out these variations visually (perhaps as part of your trip planning for your next visit to New York), you can visit NYC’s American Museum of Natural History’s online exhibit called “Hot Dogs As America,” part of its “Baseball As America” exhibit.
Hot dogs are indeed mainstays of baseball park cuisine, as anyone knows who grew up feasting on Dodger Dogs (foot-long, steamed, with mustard and relish) at Chavez Ravine, ie Dodger Stadium. In fact, according to 2005 statistics posted by the website Hot Dog Chicago Style, Dodger Stadium was the dog-leader in consumption, with 1,674,400 of the puppies downed that year. However, Chicago stadiums did rank a respectable third (Wrigley with 1,543,500) and tenth (U.S. Cellular Field with 495,000). And while it’s uncertain which parks were a part of the survey, a 2008 poll showed that while only 18% of baseball fans said they “could not live without” peanuts at the park, 63% said they had to have hot dogs with their baseball.
We won’t even try to get into a “top hot dog stands” list here, but any discussion of the mighty dog must mention that most renowned of all hot dog eateries: Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island. Any true fan will want to make a trip there when in NYC. However, if New York isn’t on your travel agenda, do not worry. Nathan’s has locations all over the country, not to mention in many airports.
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