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A tribute to the hot dog

Americans will eat more than 150 million hot dogs at Fourth of July celebrations this week. Approximately 50,000 of those will be eaten after they have rolled off a paper plate and onto the ground. Don’t worry, no one saw.

Joey Chestnut ate 71 in one sitting to win his 12th hot dog eating title Thursday. Most Americans eat that number in a year.

It’s safe to say that we like hot dogs, even if most of us aren’t sure what they are made of. We think it’s meat. We hope it’s meat. It’s probably best not to google it to find out.

My wife does not count herself among most normal hot-dog-loving Americans. Not only does she not eat them, she won’t even cook them or touch them. Her aversion to hot dogs is rivaled only by her aversion to mayonnaise. Yes, she’s an American (I’ve checked her birth certificate).

Considering all of you likely ate a hot dog this week, let’s take a closer look at what is arguably America’s favorite food.

• As legend goes, frankfurters were first called “hot dogs” back in 1906. A newspaper cartoonist was trying to draw a scene of concessionaires selling “red-hot dachshund sausages” at a baseball game in New York City, but didn’t know how to spell dachshund so he wrote “hot dogs” instead. Side note: Who has ever spelled dachshund correctly? I had to look it up three times just to write this paragraph. Another side note: Why were frankfurters called red-hot dachshund sausages? That sounds much worse.

• Southerners eat more hot dogs than folks in other parts of the country. That’s not surprising. We eat more of most things that are not good for you — fried chicken, fried fish, french fries, you get the idea. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to fry a hot dog. Side note: Is that where corn dogs came from?

• A hot dog is not a sandwich. Apparently, there is some controversy here but the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council has ruled. It’s a category unto itself, the council says. “Limiting the hot dog’s significance by saying it’s ‘just a sandwich’ is like calling the Dalai Lama ‘just a guy.’ Perhaps at one time its importance could be limited by forcing it into a larger sandwich category, but that time has passed,” NHDSC president and ‘Queen of Wien’ Janet Riley said. Side note: Who knew there was a hot dog council? I wonder if there’s a red-hot dachshund sausage council? Another side note: Someone’s official title is Queen of Wien. I wonder if it’s listed on her business card.

• The hot dog council states that ketchup should not be used on a hot dog for anyone over the age of 18. It recommends mustard, relish, onions, cheese and/or chili. Side note: This is quite unsettling for me as I put ketchup on any and all meats. The council apparently believes ketchup is only for children because adults should have more refined palettes. But it’s a hot dog, not filet mignon. Does this mean I should not be putting ketchup on my filet mignon? 

• Hot dogs were one of the first foods eaten on the moon. I assume this is because they last forever, package easily and are quintessentially American, but surely NASA could have sent something classier into space. Side note: If zero gravity makes hot dogs weightless, does that mean that Joey Chestnut could eat 71 of them and not gain weight?

Email Publisher Luke Horton at luke.horton@dailyleader.com