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jackal10

The semiotics of the hot dog

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I thought it might start an interesting discussion on the semiotics and societal significance of the hot dog, but if I posted that no one would answer. To me, Hot Dogs are nursery or street carnival food.

I wonder if they are popular because they reflect the "on the go" aspirations of the east coast US - it is I believe mainly an east coast phenomena - something eaten in passing rather than proper sit-down meal. Although sausage is certainly a German (and northern Europe) tradition, eating it in a bun is not. For example an English Banger is best enjoyed with mashed potato as the starch, onion gravy, and on a china plate, eaten with a knife and fork. Hand food (not counting canapes which are not sustenance) is for kids who can't use a knife and fork, or for when you are doing something else. Sandwiches were originally for when you were playing cards (or going on Exodus, and did not have time to eat properly.

According to Larousse Hot Dogs date to an advertising gimmick of around 1930.

If comparing British sausages and US hot dogs, I think a fairer comparison would be the British sausage roll vs. the US hot dog. What's the societal significance of a sausage roll? Is it eaten in a similar manner as a hot dog (which is what I would imagine--with your hands, on the go or as a quick meal/snack). Do British people have a fondness for sausage rolls the way Americans love their hot dogs? For example, if I were to diss a sausage roll, would a Brit come to its defence with the same passion that an American might defend a hot dog?

I'm not American, and I don't have any particular attachment to hot dogs, though I do love a good sausage roll. Come to think of it, I don't think many Canadians are very attached to hot dogs and many would definitely prefer a good sausage roll.

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As Behemoth noted:

"In most other places I've lived it is seen as kind of rude to eat while walking around...this is what sets Americans apart, I think."

Probably the point should be made here that one can not be considered a true "New Yorker" without learning how to quickly slide into a pizza place, shout out "One slice, please!" then proceed to walk down the most crowded streets one can imagine while delicately eating a half-folded pizza dripping cheese and sauce off its sides while maintaining a loud conversation with your companion and while not dripping a single spot onto your clothes. *

People who eat hot dogs in New York without spicy onions in sauce or steaming piles of sauerkraut sliding off the ends while they walk and talk through the crowds are also wimps. Or wusses, depending on one's background. :wink:

Standing still to eat either item is considered boorish and rather rude.

Ah. I can't wait to visit the city again. These children need their training in how to do this amazing task with hot dogs and pizza. All in the name of good manners, you know.

.........................................................

As to the word itself, here are the definitions from "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green:

hot dog: 1. a spiced, heated sausage or frankfurter (cf. NEW YORK TUBE STEAK) 2. the penis

{SE since 1939 when served under that name by the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce to FDR and his guests, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the hot dog started life as slang. It probably comes from heavy-handed mid 19C humor focusing on supposed use of horse-and-dog meat as sausage filling, a concept accentuated by the 1843 scandal concerning dog-meat. The image was intensified in 1860 by the use of Hundewurst, dog sausage - to mean smoked frankfurter sausages - larger sausages were Pferdwurst, horse baloney. The dachshund, of course, is a "sausage dog".

So, really. . .what can you expect of something that started its life as slang?! :huh:

It *will* continue to insist on being slangy in every way it can think of.

*P.S. IN high-heels for the females and WITH a bulging briefcase being carried by the males. Or switch 'em around. I don't care. :laugh:


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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Here are the additional definitions from the same book:

hot dog - one who is particularly proficient at an occupation or activity, esp. a successful gambler.

hot dog - 1. good, excellent 2. showy, flamboyant

hot dog - pornographic

hot dog - to chase, to harass

hot dog! - an expression of delight

hot-dogger - a show-off, a braggart

and finally. . . .

hot dog stand is open - a warning to a man that his trouser-fly is open.

:biggrin:

Note: I made an effort to drop some connecting words in both posts to conform to copyright laws but did not leave out anything eh. . ."meaningful". :rolleyes:

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I guess the UK equivalent might be the bacon roll. Usually eaten standing near the vendor, but (and here is the important part) with a steaming mug of strong tea in the other hand. This effectively means it is not mobile food. A bacon butty, on the other hand (slices of white bread, butter, ketchup or HP sauce) is best eaten over the sink, in private.

I am reliably informed that warm meat pies are what are eaten at half time at football matches. ("Who ate all the pies!" is the chant), maybe with mushy peas (minted) in a plastic cup...

http://www.pukkapies.co.uk/

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[...]Probably the point should be made here that one can not be considered a true "New Yorker" without learning how to quickly slide into a pizza place, shout out "One slice, please!" then proceed to walk down the most crowded streets one can imagine while delicately eating a half-folded pizza dripping cheese and sauce off its sides while maintaining a loud conversation with your companion and while not dripping a single spot onto your clothes.[...]

That's more like "Gimme a slice!", Karen. :laugh:


Michael aka "Pan

 

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- something eaten in passing rather than proper sit-down meal.

Looks like what we really need to explore is not the hot dog, but the concept of a "proper" meal. :hmmm: For most people, if you have a hot dog (or two) on a roll with the works, is that a meal? Or is it a snack in between meals? Does it make a difference if you eat it "on the go" or if you eat it sitting down at the table with napkins (or serviettes) and everything?

I really love those A&H bison frankfurters. And I can certainly make a full meal of them.

BTW -- my father (who was a kosher butcher, at a kosher meat-packing factory) would never eat frankfurters. "They make them where I work," he'd say. "You know what goes in those things?"

:raz:

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BTW -- my father (who was a kosher butcher, at a kosher meat-packing factory) would never eat frankfurters. "They make them where I work," he'd say. "You know what goes in those things?"

The words "mechanically separated meat" is a big tip-off. Which is not to say I don't eat hot-dogs, just that I try not to think about it too much.

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- something eaten in passing rather than proper sit-down meal.

BTW -- my father (who was a kosher butcher, at a kosher meat-packing factory) would never eat frankfurters. "They make them where I work," he'd say. "You know what goes in those things?"

:raz:

What goes in those things is quality kosher beef. From the front part of the cow. If you see "variety meats" on the label, then you will be getting undesirable parts of the cow, or pig if the dog contains pork. Do you know what your father may be referring to?


John the hot dog guy

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Looks like what we really need to explore is not the hot dog, but the concept of a "proper" meal.  :hmmm:  For most people, if you have a hot dog (or two) on a roll with the works, is that a meal? Or is it a snack in between meals? Does it make a difference if you eat it "on the go" or if you eat it sitting down at the table with napkins (or serviettes) and everything?

I have had a few as an Amuse and as a Savory Dessert :shock:

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That's more like "Gimme a slice!", Karen. :laugh:

Well, yes Michael you are absolutely right. It was early in the morning and my attitude had obviously not been screwed on right yet. :rolleyes:

...................................................

Jack, here is something you might enjoy, from H.L. Mencken:

"I devoured hot-dogs in Baltimore 'way back in 1886, and they were then very far from new-fangled. . .they contained precisely the same rubber, indigestible pseudo-sausages that millions now eat, and leaked the same flabby, puerile mustard. Their single point of difference [. . .] their covers were [. . .] not the soggy rolls prevailing today, of ground acorns, plaster-of-Paris, flecks of bath-sponge, and atmospheric air all compact."

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Ahh...the Sage of Baltimore, spot on as always

I think the question of what is a "proper" meal is a good one.

One that (as Sidney Smith has it) that afterwards " Serenely full the epicure would say "Fate cannot harm me, I have dined today"

A meal, that unless it happens at least once a day or so, one feels vaguely cheated and unsatisfied

For me, this involves sitting down at a table with cutlery. eating from plates. It probably involves protein, preferably animal, but I realise that some people have restrictions. They probably want something green.

Its not grazing from the fridge, although that has its own guilty pleasure. Its not food eaten on the run - that is just a stop-gap, not real food.

Hot dogs are not real food. They are a snack. They are a way to pad out the expensive protein with lots of flabby carbohydrate. I suppose you could take the sausage and the trimmings and put them on a plate, with the bun on the side. You would quickly perceive the lack of vegetables or salad, the poorness of the roll, and the paucity of the sausage, unless you are very lucky or have several.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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While eating a sausage in a bun is not a European tradition, it's certainly an American one. In Germany, they steam or boil a frank consisting of beef, pork, and veal. They eat it plain, dipping it in mustard with a semmel roll on the side.

Actually, the type of sausage, what the sausage is made from, and whether it's eaten in a bun or alongside varies according to what part of Germany you are in. Some types of sausage that are commonly eaten at festivals and street markets are available only seasonally as well.

The most delicious, IMO, comes from the Saarland region in southern Germany (just north of Lorraine). They're cooked on a Schwenker, a three-legged grill in which the grill plate can be raised or lowered over a bed of beech wood. The sausages are usually served in the bun, not alongside.

These are street food (and smell so appetizing that it truly is difficult to walk past a place selling them when one is hungry). They are also widely sold at fairs. However, they are not just street food, but are probably also the most commonly cooked item on the barbecue (i.e. the Schwenker) in the Saarland (and the season to indulge in a backyard Schwenken starts as early and ends as late as the weather will allow).

When not cooked on a Schwenker, most sausages in the Saarland are grilled on rollers, not boiled or steamed.

Moving to Berlin brought with it the discovery that most of the sausage types available in the Saarland are unavailable here, and that - with the exception of some of the sausages at fairs - most sausages are indeed steamed or boiled here.

This was definitely a culinary step backwards.

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A meal, that unless it happens at least once a day or so, one feels vaguely cheated and unsatisfied

For me, this involves sitting down at a table with cutlery. eating from plates. It probably involves protein, preferably animal, but I realise that some people have restrictions. They probably want something green.

In agreement with the concept of a meal being an actual activity and not simply a part of "multi-tasking".

But hot-dogs do have their own place in America at the supper table of families.

They have traditionally been a staple for families with budget constraints (sometimes to a fault perhaps :wacko: ).

Grilled or boiled hot-dogs (depending on the brand and how to best prepare) served on buns (sometimes, in the New England tradition, buns with open sides to grill with butter) with baked beans and coleslaw and potato chips or french fries.

Not such a bad combo nutritionally, really.

So the hot-dog *can* be a more serious, sit-down sort of meal if one wishes.

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Hot dogs are not real food. They are a snack.  They are a way to pad out the expensive protein with lots of flabby carbohydrate. I suppose you could take the sausage and the trimmings and put them on a plate, with the bun on the side.  You would quickly perceive the lack of vegetables or salad,  the poorness of the roll, and the paucity of the sausage, unless you are very lucky or have several.

You could say the same thing about a bacon sarnie. Or a lot of other foods. At this point, I don't think you are talking about any particular cultural phenomenon.


Edited by Tess (log)

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Hot dogs are not real food. They are a snack. They are a way to pad out the expensive protein with lots of flabby carbohydrate. I suppose you could take the sausage and the trimmings and put them on a plate, with the bun on the side. You would quickly perceive the lack of vegetables or salad, the poorness of the roll, and the paucity of the sausage, unless you are very lucky or have several.

I now need to come up with a similar retort that a British person would find equally offensive.

By an identical metric, you could say equally that Fish and Chips isn't real food either. You're padding protein with lots of carbohydrate batter, accompanying it with pure carbs and immersing it in hot grease.

Does it deserve venerating as real food when done correctly and with care? Yes, absolutely. The same goes for the Hot Dog.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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[...]Probably the point should be made here that one can not be considered a true "New Yorker" without learning how to quickly slide into a pizza place, shout out "One slice, please!" then proceed to walk down the most crowded streets one can imagine while delicately eating a half-folded pizza dripping cheese and sauce off its sides while maintaining a loud conversation with your companion and while not dripping a single spot onto your clothes.[...]

That's more like "Gimme a slice!", Karen. :laugh:

Not to mention a swinging paint can in the other hand. Tony Manero LIVES! :wub:

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I haven't ever cracked open a copy of Larousse Gastronomique, but I suspect that what the entry cited here may have been referring to is the use of the phrase "hot dog" to refer to a "frankfurter" or "wiener" sausage.

I vaguely recall reading something--here on eG, I think--about the phrase catching on when an advertising copywriter designed an ad featuring a wiener altered to resemble a dachshund.

My recollection is also that the frankfurter or wiener was one of those food products popularized at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904--as was one of the most popular condiments to put on a hot dog, French's yellow mustard, which made its debut at the fair.  French's mustard packages up until a couple of years ago even bore the legend, "An all-American favorite ever since its introduction at the 1904 World's Fair!"

In fact, it might be argued that the 1904 St. Louis World's Fare, um, Fair,  was to American eating habits what the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago was to American city planning.

But as for the semiotics of the hot dog, you really don't want to get a gay man started on the subject, now do you?

I believe that "iced tea" was "invented" and served first at the St Louis World's fair.

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- something eaten in passing rather than proper sit-down meal.

BTW -- my father (who was a kosher butcher, at a kosher meat-packing factory) would never eat frankfurters. "They make them where I work," he'd say. "You know what goes in those things?"

:raz:

What goes in those things is quality kosher beef. From the front part of the cow. If you see "variety meats" on the label, then you will be getting undesirable parts of the cow, or pig if the dog contains pork. Do you know what your father may be referring to?

You and my father could probably have had a very interesting conversation. He never mentioned exactly what he was referring to (except by referring to it as "chazarai" -- a generic translation of which could be "garbage"), and he is now deceased, so the secret lies with him. In any case, there were no labels on the hot dogs. (Imagine!!) He used to bring home frankfurters (because, although he wouldn't touch them, my brother, sisters, and I would holler for them all the time) of the "old school." A long line of hot dogs, each connected to the other. They had to be cut apart. He'd bring home a few pounds wrapped up in brown paper, so there were never any labels for us to read (or not read, as the case may be.) I'm sure the beef was pure beef, and good beef. However, I think in addition to that pure beef there was probably a lot of not-so-pure stuff as well.

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The whole point behind the hot dog is that it's NOT a proper meal. That is its essential appeal (besides tasting good on a visceral level). What does the hard-boiled detective stuff down his gullet in between stake-outs? What does the construction site foreman get two of from the lunch truck? What does the floor runner at the Stock Exchange shove in his mouth to keep himself going? The hot dog is essential. We would starve without the hotdog. The economy would collapse. Nothing would get done. Don't let all those newfangled sushi stands at ballparks fool you: the hot dog is here to stay. The heartburn remedy industury alone would disintegrate without it. Not to mention 70s cop shows -- if there were no hot dogs in 1972, Quinn Martin would've had to invent them.


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What about the legions of single men out there who may or may not admit to cutting up a package of hot dogs into a pot with a can of baked beans and eating while watching TV ...out of the pot.

I am very close to someone who did admit to this :shock:


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Hot dogs are not real food. They are a snack. They are a way to pad out the expensive protein with lots of flabby carbohydrate. I suppose you could take the sausage and the trimmings and put them on a plate, with the bun on the side. You would quickly perceive the lack of vegetables or salad, the poorness of the roll, and the paucity of the sausage, unless you are very lucky or have several.

I now need to come up with a similar retort that a British person would find equally offensive.

By an identical metric, you could say equally that Fish and Chips isn't real food either. You're padding protein with lots of carbohydrate batter, accompanying it with pure carbs and immersing it in hot grease.

Does it deserve venerating as real food when done correctly and with care? Yes, absolutely. The same goes for the Hot Dog.

Leave aside the offense, he didn't even get the nutrition right.

Hot dogs are Atkins-safe, being very low in carbohydrates. Here's the nutritional data on the package of Hebrew Nationals currently in my fridge:

Fat 14g-22% DV (saturated fat 6g-30%), Cholesterol 30 mg-10%, Sodium 420mg-18%, Total Carbohydrates 1g-0%, Protein 6g.

If you're going to do a nutritional slam on hot dogs, the villain is fat, not carbs--130 of a Hebrew National frank's 150 total calories come from fat.

But why am I arguing nutrition in this discussion? We don't eat hot dogs because we're nutrition-conscious. We eat them because they're easy to eat and taste good.


Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

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60 of 100 calories when we're talking Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs.

The fact that organic hot dogs are made...or that vegetarians buy their kids* hot dogs made from soy beans says how important these things are to some of us here in the U.S.

*Hell. They eat them, too.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Grilled or boiled hot-dogs (depending on the brand and how to best prepare) served on buns (sometimes, in the New England tradition, buns with open sides to grill with butter) with baked beans and coleslaw and potato chips or french fries.

Why, this is exactly what's for dinner at my house tonight, but without the chips or fries. Mom and Dad are going out, and it's a meal that the sitter can easily prepare, and the kids will eat with no fuss.

A life without hot dogs would be tolerable as long as I never attended another baseball game for the rest of my life. The association is too strong.

Greeks have gyros and meat, cheese and spinach pies available on countless Athenian streetcorners; pizzas are Italian; French "delis" are full of ham and cheese combinations on baguettes that resemble in every way a Gallic hogie and neighborhood frites joints; and the Brits have their porkpies.

And the aforementioned fish and chips. And what of Asian street food? Almost every Thai cookbook I have has a seperate section for street food.


Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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What about the legions of single men out there who may or may not admit to cutting up a package of hot dogs into a pot with a can of baked beans and eating while watching TV ...out of the pot.

I am very close to someone who did admit to this :shock:

I'm know a few people who are vegetarians who know 'other' vegetarians who eat cold Oscar Mayer hotdogs from the package on ths sly. Sort of like the smoker who sneaks outside for a drag when noone is looking.

And, with the nutritional content being somewhat heavy on the fat, I long ago heard a rather catchy term of art for our homegrown sausage: death tubes.

Powerful stuff, the hotdog.


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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A hot dog is food, like most anything else that we discuss here on eGullet. What someone does with it is what makes it either a meal or a snack, and that is the plain truth of the matter. 'Semiotic' hopes are dashed, if one insists on writing otherwise. I, personally, eat about 6 hot dogs a year. Various kinds, the last one I had was made from a vegetarian's idea of kishke filling, great fatty mouth feel and reminiscent, but, not exactly what most of us would opine a dog is. A favorite hot dog of ours is one that our cousins ply us with in the summers, when we visit their Lake Webster, New Hampshire cottage, "Just-A-Camp". Couldn't tell you the brand, but it is a German style, milder dog than our other favorites are. It seems that my next one will be an Amazing, which I am to understand is a Best's product, and fried! We shall have french fries with that hot dog, and cole slaw, and it WILL be a meal. My heart goes out to folks who find their satisfaction in keeping things to the upper limits. When you fall from such heights, it can be seriously injurious. Not to mention walking into things that can't be seen when one is holding their head at the unnatural angle required in order to keep their nose up so high. And, then, people can see up your nose, and where do you think the term "Snotty" came from, after all?:smile:


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