Today as I was walking to lunch, I couldn’t help but notice there was a familiar smell in the air. It was smoky, and tangy. It was borderline sweet, but had notes of spice. It was a hot dog. The smell is distinct, and isn’t easily mistaken for anything else. You know it, and you know how it wafts. Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Memorial Day all smell like hot dogs.
Suddenly, I wanted a hot dog. That wasn’t what I was going to be enjoying for my mid-day meal though. So I had to quickly wipe that futile craving from my mind, only to be replaced with the question, why is a hot dog called a hot dog? I started thinking of all the different rumors and myths I’ve heard in my life surrounding the naming process. The sausages used to be made of dog! They look like a Dachshund, but Dachshund is hard to spell! They smell like wet dogs! All of these are perfectly good explanations for the naming of the hot dog, but none are real.
This got me started on a giant hunt to separate the truth from the false. Thanks to a handy little site called Snopes, I was able to get to the truth! And not just about hot dogs, but about a whole array of different myths surrounding food origins. I got really excited.
So what is the truth about the the naming of the hot dog?
According to myth…
The most popular version of the etymology myth is that the term “hot dog” was coined in the early 1900’s by a cartoonist who couldn’t spell “dachshund."
“In 1906, cartoonist T.A. Dorgan penned a drawing of a dachshund inside an elongated bun. Dorgan didn’t know how to spell “dachshund”, so he wrote the term “hot dog” instead… the name stuck”
|Cartoonist, T A Dorgan|
Really? I call BS on this.
As it turns out, the term “hot dog” used as a slang reference to a nattily-dressed fellow, appeared at least as early as 1894, and it wasn’t much later that the word “dog” - then the term “hot dog” – was applied to the sausage-in-a-bun combination.
By the early twentieth century – about the time T.A. Dorgan was supposedly “inventing” the term – “hot dog” was already supplanting the other common names for a sausage in a bun.
So that myth was just busted.
Another fable is that German Chocolate Cake comes from Germany.
Is this true or false? This one came as a surprise to me. I mean, duh, of course German Chocolate Cake comes from Germany. Why else would it be called German Chocolate Cake?
Well... There was actually a man named Sam German who developed a sweet baking bar for Baker’s Chocolate Co!
The product was named in honor of him: “Bakers German’s Sweet Chocolate.” In most recipes and products today, the apostrophe and the “s” have been dropped, fueling the assumption that the chocolate’s origins are German.
The first published recipe for what we know as German Chocolate Cake, showed up in a Dallas newspaper in 1957, and came from a Texas homemaker. The resulting spike in German’s Sweet Chocolate sales put General Foods on alert; the company quickly sent copies of the recipe and photos of the cake to newspapers across the nation.
Have you ever been told that Caesar Salad was invented by, or named for Julius Caesar?
I mean, it does seem obvious. But the truth is, Caesar salads have no connection whatsoever to Julius Caesar, or any Caesar from Rome or the empire. Instead, it is named in honor of Caesar Cardini, a famed restaurateur who, according to lore, invented the dish in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924. Apparently the Fourth of July crowd at his restaurant proved to be too much for the kitchen, and he had to make due with whatever ingredients were there.
Cardini’s original recipe called for romaine lettuce, garlic, croutons, Parmesan cheese, boiled eggs, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. There were no anchovies in the original dish, as you can see. (Great, now I want a Caeser salad, really bad.)
Well, as you can see there’s a lot of lore out there, and thankfully, a lot of truth to be found. I know I am grateful that I now know the real story behind the hot dog. I will sleep better at night....
Are there any food origins that you believe have a questionable background? Are there any myths you want to bust? If so, what are they?