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Hot diggity dog

July 02, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

July is National Hot Dog Month, so says the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.

Maybe it's an American thing. When baseball was in its heyday as the undisputed American pasttime, hot dogs filled bellies in the seats. Even with more diverse fare at ballparks, the hot dog still is king.

Hot dogs are not confined to stadiums, though. Americans are expected to eat 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July, according to the council at at www.hotdog.org on the Web.

William "The Refrigerator" Perry, the 400-pound-plus former National Football League lineman, is planning to eat a few frankfurters on Independence Day.

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He recently qualified for a spot in the annual Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating contest in Coney Island, N.Y., sponsored by Nathan's Famous, according to The Associated Press.

Perry ate 12 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

That's a lot of hot dogs, but not even close to the record-breaking 50 in 12 minutes devoured by Takeru Kobayashi in last year's competition. Kobayashi, who also won the contest in 2001, weighs 130 pounds.

The hot dog council estimates that nearly 26 million hot dogs will be eaten in big league ballparks.

At Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium, Hagerstown Suns fans consume an average of 36,000 hot dogs per season.

"That, of course, is a combination of foot-long hot dogs and the regular-sized hot dogs," says Chris Matthias, the Suns' director of concessions and group sales. All the Suns' hot dogs are grilled and are by far the most popular menu item, he adds.

The popularity of hot dogs is clear, but the ways to dress it up are not so settled.

Mustard was the No. 1 choice in a random hot dog council poll of Americans in 2002. Thirty percent chose mustard, 22 percent ketchup, 12 percent chili and 10 percent relish.

At Municipal Stadium, ketchup, mustard, relish and onions are the most popular condiments, but, Matthias says, some people ask for peanut butter and mayonnaise.

What exactly is a hot dog?

Hot dogs - also known as frankfurters or wieners - are cooked and/or smoked sausages, per federal standards of identity, which describe processing requirements, according to information on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.

The finished products may not contain more than 30 percent fat or no more than 10 percent water. Up to 3.5 percent nonmeat binders and extenders (such as nonfat dry milk, cereal or dried whole milk) or 2 percent isolated soy protein may be used.

For more than a decade, skinnier versions of the popular sausages have been available. The reduced and low-fat pups have 1 to 9 grams of fat and 50 to 110 calories. The fat-free wieners have less than a 1/2 gram of fat - some zero - and average 35 to 40 calories each, according to the hot dog council.

Hot dogs, which technically are sausages (chopped, seasoned meat stuffed in membranous casings) have history - a long history. The ancient Greek poet Homer mentioned them in his "Odyssey."

The German city of Frankfurt traditionally gets the credit for being the place of origin of the frankfurter, dating it to 1487. But there are those who trace the beginnings of the small sausage to a 16th-century butcher in Coberg, Germany, who later brought his hot product to Frankfurt.

Vienna, Austria, also known as Wien, also claims to be the hot dog's birthplace, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.

And there is debate about the history of the hot dog on a bun in America: Were they first sold from a vendor's push cart in New York City in the 1860s, at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago or at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis?

The nickname "hot dog" also is in dispute. Webster's dictionary credits - albeit with a question mark - American cartoonist T.A. Dorgan with coining the moniker circa 1900, probably in allusion to a popular notion that the sausage was made of dog meat.

But references to dachshund - little dog - sausages can be traced to German immigrants who brought the sausages, as well as their short-legged, long-bodied canines, to America in the late 19th century.

Whatever its history or roots, the hot dog as we know it is pretty-much an all-American food for an all-American month.

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