The Hotdog Origin Story

The sausage has an ancient backstory. The oldest surviving text, Homer’s Odyssey, written around 700 BCE, includes a description of a hungry man roasting sausage on a fire. Bread-making has an even longer history. Crumbs of flatbreads found in modern-day Jordan date back at least 10,000 years. So both sausages and bread have survived the test of time.

As a thought experiment, now consider the ubiquitous wheelie suitcase we all use today. Like all simple ideas it seems obvious. But think about how many centuries the wheel and the suitcase/trunk were around before they were combined into a single thing? 3000 years? We don’t really know. The point is a similar thing happened with the hotdog.

Fast-forward a few millennia to the 1800s. People from the region of sausage lovers today known as Germany are emigrating to the promised land of America. In 1867 one such immigrant, Charles Feltman, sets up shop in Coney Island, Brooklyn, a popular pleasure-beach district within easy reach of New York.

Feltmans served Frankfurter sausages in a suitably-sized bread roll. This simple but brilliant innovation allowed both the hot sausage to be held in the hand and the all-important addition of sauce. Like all great ideas it spread, reaching the Pacific coast by 1939, with Pinks opening in Hollywood, and onwards around the world. Feltmans is generally recognised as the birthplace of the modern hotdog.

Today Engine still serves Senf, premium German mustard. For some purists this is the only topping a hotdog will ever need.  A generous squeeze over a sausage awarded by the German Agricultural Society  served in a fresh-baked bun. If it ain’t broke…