CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- July contains the memorable Fourth and the lesser-known National Hot Dog Day on the 23rd.It is surprising to find that the earliest mention of the hot dog dates back to Frankfurt, Germany, in the 13th century, where pork sausages were given to the people in celebration of imperial coronations. Five hundred years later, beef was added and the frankfurter was brought to Vienna (Wien) -- hence the name "wiener" in Austria.In the 1880s, a German immigrant on Coney Island added a roll for serving because the white gloves previously provided to prevent burned fingers were so often stolen. Anyway, this is only one of many stories of the origin of the hot dog.The name itself is attributed to a New York Post cartoonist, who could not spell "Dachshund sandwiches," which were being sold at the New York Polo Grounds in the 1890s, so he called them hot dogs. The use of the word "dog" for sausages was perhaps justified, since the consumption of dog meat was previously common in Germany.Commercial preparation of hot dogs begins by placing the ingredients in vats with rapidly moving blades, and the resulting mixture then forced into casings for cooking. The traditional (natural) casing is made from the small intestines of sheep. Skinless hot dogs are encased in a long tube of cellulose that is removed between cooking and packaging.You may or may not be interested to know that 7-Eleven sells the most grilled hot dogs in North America -- l00 million annually. The longest hot dog created was l97 feet and served in a 198-foot bun!Which brings up the subject of buns. Why are the buns longer than the dogs? Why are hot dogs sold in packages of 10 and buns in packages of eight (or vice versa)?
I can't remember my first hot dog. Growing up in Philadelphia, I somehow became aware that they were called Shibe Park hot dogs (after the city's baseball stadium) and were a plain wienie topped with a bit of mustard. I also learned from my father that they were made from meat scraps from the floor after an animal had been butchered.However, since I never attended a baseball game, and I am sure my mother shared my father's prejudice against this delightful concoction, my own sampling must have taken place when I had reached an age where I was free of parental restraint.About 12 years ago I became an addict. In Naples, Fla., every Sunday afternoon there was a free band concert, and adjacent to the park sat a mobile hot dog stand. It dispensed soft drinks, freshly popped corn, soft ice cream and the most delicious hot dogs in steamed buns (add your own mustard or relish). Riches running riot!Upon returning to Charleston, I went in search of a similar treat and found that the West Virginia hot dog is topped with chili, coleslaw and onions, and that hot dogs were not readily available in our fast-food outlets.One source, for countless years, had been Chris's on West Washington Street. It was frequented by businessmen.Today things are different. There are hot dogs everywhere with imaginative names and a vast selection of toppings. For example, Hillbilly Hot Dogs, in Huntington, lists 26.I am happy to say that I have at last found the perfect West Virginia hot dog in a steamed bun topped with chili and slaw. It is right here in the Court Yard Café of my retirement community, Edgewood Summit.Dorothy Wehrle Dixon, of Charleston, may be contacted at dwdixon@suddenlinknet.