By David White, Ohio Livestock Coalition
I think April 1, 2013, should be a national holiday. After all, it is opening day for what is supposedly our national pastime. It’s probably also the unofficial first day of the hot dog eating season.
There are many good things that go together, and as far as I’m concerned, a hot dog and a baseball game are one of them. And it looks like I’m not the only one who thinks so as the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (yes, there is a trade organization for everything!) reports that ballparks serve more than 21 million annually.
Additionally, a national poll conducted a few years ago revealed that hot dogs continue to dominate fans’ favorite stadium fare. Hot dogs were listed by 63% of fans as the one ballpark food they could not live without. Peanuts ranked second with 18%, followed by pizza, cotton candy and, finally, cracker jacks. The Chicago-New York hot dog rivalry remains intense as Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium are consistently rated as having the best stadium hot dogs.
Poll results also showed that baseball legend Babe Ruth, who supposedly once ate 12 hot dogs and drank eight bottles of soda between games of a doubleheader, was voted most likely to win a hot dog eating contest among current and former players. The Babe won handily with 42% of the vote, with former major league player and current ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk finishing second with 17%. Retired Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda finished third in voting with 15%. Perhaps most interesting was that Prince Fielder, a self-proclaimed vegetarian, claimed 8% of the vote.
Perhaps the biggest debate involves what you should or should not top off your hot dog with as many hot dog connoisseurs consider it a violation of hot dog etiquette if you use ketchup. According to the official rules of hot dog etiquette, it is not appropriate once you reach the age of 18 to use ketchup on a hot dog. Additional hot dog etiquette guidelines include applying condiments in the following order: wet condiments like mustard and chili are applied first, followed by chunky condiments like relish, onions and sauerkraut, and then followed by shredded cheese. The application of spices, like celery salt or pepper, should be the last thing you put on a hot dog. In other words, always “dress the dog,” not the bun.
Hot dogs should always be eaten with your hands. Paper plates and every day dishes are acceptable for serving; china is a big no-no. It should take you five bites or less to finish a hot dog, and not more than seven bites to finish off a footlong. It is considered appropriate for you to lick away condiments remaining on your fingers after eating a hot dog. Beer, soda, lemonade and iced tea are the preferred beverages to accompany a hot dog feast. Wine should never be brought to a hot dog barbecue.
Now back to more on how to dress your dog. New Yorkers, who eat more hot dogs than any other group in the country, typically prefer theirs served with steamed onions and a pale, deli-style yellow mustard. The possible antithesis to New York dogs, Chicago-style, are typically layered with yellow mustard, dark green relish, and chopped raw onion, sporting peppers and tomato slices, and are then topped with a dash of celery salt and served in a poppy seed bun.
For some reason, I was expecting barbecue sauce as the preferred topping in Kansas City. However, it turns out that in KC a hot dog is usually served with sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese on a sesame bun. And in Atlanta and other parts of the South, cole slaw tops many a dog.
There are also some unique local preferences in major league baseball stadiums. The Rockie Dog served at Coors Field in Denver is a foot long hot dog with grilled peppers, sauerkraut and onions. The Fenway Frank in Boston is boiled, then grilled and served in a New England style bun with mustard and relish. The Texas Dog favored at Minute Maid Park in Houston features chili, cheese and jalapenos. The Sonoran dog can be found it in parts of the Southwest and it features a grilled, bacon-wrapped (what could be wrong with that?!) dog on a sturdy bun topped off with pinto beans, grilled onions and green peppers, chopped fresh tomatoes, relish, tomatillo jalapeno salsa, mayonnaise, mustard and shredded cheese.
My personal favorite (what’s yours?) is the basic Coney dog: slather mustard on the bun (etiquette be darned!), then put the hot dog in the bun and cover it with meaty chili sauce, onions and shredded cheese.
While the hot dog is a popular entree across the country, consumption does vary by region. According to the most recent sales data, New Yorkers spent more money on hot dogs in retail stores than any other market in the country. Residents of Los Angeles came in second. The top 10 hot dog consuming areas based upon volume include Los Angeles and New York, as well as San Antonio/Corpus Christi, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, South Carolina and Harrisburg/Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Consumers with larger households — primarily those made up of older children in the Midwest and South — continue to be the highest consumers of refrigerated packaged meat products; 60%, most of them older consumers, prefer all beef hot dogs. Younger consumers typically prefer refrigerated packaged meat products derived from pork or poultry. Midwestern residents usually consume more hot dogs made with beef or pork than any other region of the country. Folks living in the western part of the U. S. eat more hot dogs made from poultry than any region of the country, with the southern part of the nation being a close second. In the eastern region beef hot dogs are the preference and more are consumed there than any other region in the country.
The summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day are actually designated as the “hot dog season.” It is estimated that an average of 38% of the total number of hot dogs are sold during this time of the year. And, 10% of annual retail hot dog sales occur during July, which is designated as National Hot Dog month.
And who should we thank for inventing the hot dog? Well, that depends on who you ask!