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How American Are Hamburgers and Hot Dogs?

Updated on March 11, 2014
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I am a retired special needs teacher who still wants to learn. I enjoy researching and finding interesting facts to share in my writing.

From Germany to Coney Island

July is national Hot Dog Month and May is Burger Month. Where did these American traditions start?

In 1484 in Frankfurt, Germany, a butcher introduced a spiced sausage rolled in a casing. He named his creation a ‘frankfurter,’ after his hometown. German folklore states the butcher shaped the sausage in the likeness of his pet dachshund.

Fast forward to the 1880’s where Charles Feltman, a German baker sold pies from a pushcart near Coney Island. The pie business wasn’t doing so well. He decided to sell his hometown sausage or frankfurter from his cart. Feltman boiled the sausage and sold them as ‘frankfurter sandwiches.’ He served them with mustard and sauerkraut. Today more than 16.5 billion are sold yearly.

Beginning of the Golden Arches

The Mongolian and Turkic tribes of medieval times were known as Tartars. They would shred the tough meat from cattle into what they called Tartar Steak. In the 14th century the Germans flavored the shredded beef with spices. It became known as ‘Hamburger Steak,’ after the seaport town of Hamburg, Germany. Dr. J. H. Salisbury, a 19th century English physician said it was better for digestion to shred all food. Hamburger steak became Salisbury steak and was served on a plate. When the hamburger was served at the 1904 Saint Louis World’s Fair, it was served on a bun. How and why that happened is unclear. Today more than 50 billion hamburgers are sold yearly.

Condiments to enhance the flavor

Ketchup is one of the first condiments. The Romans in 300 B.C. mixed vinegar, oil, pepper and dried anchovies and called it liquamen. This puree is the oldest ‘ketchup’ on record. In 1690 the Chinese mixed pickled fish, shellfish and spices naming it ‘ke-tsiap. Jumping to the 18th century, English chefs tried to copy the recipe. They misspelled the name to ketchup. Tomatoes did not enter the recipe until 1790’s. Thomas Jefferson was one of the first in the US to use tomatoes as ‘tomata catsup.’

Mustard was first considered medicinal. In the 6th century B.C. Greek scientists used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings. Mustard is one of the world’s oldest spices. Early Romans used to grind the seeds and mix them in wine. National Mustard Day is August 2, 2014. It is the first Saturday in the month of August. The National Mustard Museum is located in Middleton, Wisconsin. Mustard sales total over 700 million pounds per year.

Relish originated in India as Chutney. Its’ original use was to preserve foods. Technically relish is a flavored condiment. Chow-cow is the Chinese version of orange peel, ginger in syrup. Piccalilli uses sour pickles, cabbage, onions, green peppers, green tomatoes, celery and spices. Chutney was brought to America by schooner captains. Pickle relish is the most common forms of relish in the US. America is the only country that puts relish on burgers.

Facts for your next trivia contest

Americans consume 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.

7-Eleven sells more hot dogs than any other retailer in America

1996 Olympics’ made the world’s biggest hot dog, 1,996 feet, made by Sara Lee Corporation

Hot dogs were the first food eaten on the moon in 1969

The world’s largest hamburger, cooked in 1982 was 3,591 pounds

The Hamburger Hall of Fame is in Seymour, Wisconsin/

Heinz Company is the world leader in ketchup at 60% of market, selling over 650 million bottles a year

Heinz sells 11 billion small packets of ketchup per year.

The world’s largest ketchup bottle is in Collinsville, Illinois. Built in 1949 at 170 feet tall.

You can use ketchup to restore glow to pots and pans. The acid removes tarnish.


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