© St. Petersburg Times, published April 23, 2003
explanations from the inside out
There may be no popular food with a more storied -- or hotly debated -- history than the hot dog. Was it born in Frankfurt, Germany, where it got the name frankfurter, or in Vienna (Wien), Austria, where it's called a wiener?
The beloved German dachshund inspired the term hot dog. One story has it that a hawker was selling "red hots! get your dachshund dogs" on a cold day at New York's Polo Grounds, and a popular cartoonist of the time chronicled the scene. He replaced the tough-to-spell dachshund dog with hot dog. That was in 1901. Another story has frankfurters being peddled to college students at Yale from rolling "dog wagons" in the late 1800s.
The hot dog-baseball association began in 1893 when a German immigrant who owned a bar and the St. Louis Browns team began selling wieners at the park. Of course, he probably wasn't getting six bucks for a footlong.
According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, which tells these stories of the hot dog at www.hot-dog.org, Americans ate 20-billion dogs in 2001. A guilty pleasure for sure, given that they're not exactly considered health food.
How do Americans eat their dogs? Depends on where they are from. Southerners like them with heaps of cole slaw. Chicago dogs are served with yellow mustard, raw onions, neon-green relish, pickle, sport pepper, tomato slices and celery seed on a poppy seed bun. In New York, a hot dog isn't complete without steamed onions and yellow mustard relish. Out West, or at least in diet-conscious California, give them turkey dogs, please.
And don't forget the chili-cheese dog, a favorite all over the country and especially in Cincinnati, with or without onions.
Dogs vary by region, too. Chicagoans love Vienna Beef; Rochester goes for Zweigle's. Southerners divide between Lykes and Gwaltney, and New Yorkers argue over Sabrett's and Hebrew National. There's also debate on cooking methods, and it's Buffalo, not New Orleans, that likes them blackened.
Worried about dinner plans? A new online cooking club aims to solve those late-afternoon woes. Organizers promise that all recipes include ingredients that can be found in the grocery store, that no list of ingredients will be longer than the recipe's instructions, that each recipe is easy and that finicky children will eat the end results. This site is perfect for hit-and-run cooks. If you're looking for more complex recipes, click on.
Many cooks temper the bitterness of eggplant by salting, weighting and draining pieces of cut eggplant before cooking. An added benefit of this purging is that the eggplant absorbs less oil during cooking.
"Anybody who believes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach flunked geography."- Robert Byrne, author of The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (Fireside, $16).
To celebrate the 100th birthday of its boxed animal crackers, Nabisco has polled its customers and added another critter to its already-diverse lineup: the koala. The cuddly critter beat out the walrus, penguin and cobra, receiving 48 percent of the votes.
Kitchen diva Nigella Lawson has been stirring up the biggest British-flavored buzz in the States since the Spice Girls. Three cookbooks, a cooking show that airs on the Style Network and, now, kitchen equipment.
Among the 11-piece line is a $6 whisk and a $110 bread bin. Right now, it's available only through the Terence Conran Shop in New York, but it will debut nationally this spring. With her latest book, Forever Summer (Hyperion, $35) and a spinoff cable show of the same name starting May 3 on Style, Nigella is aiming to extend the winter of Martha's discontent.
Good advice with an easy-to-digest approach makes the American Dietetic Association Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids (Wiley, $14.95), by Jodie Shield and Mary Catherine Mullen, a timely read for parents concerned about the diets of youngsters ages 5 to 12.
Shield and Mullen, registered dietitians who calculate the nutritional content of recipes for Good Eating magazine, pack lots of useful information into this well-written handbook.