The Fascinating History of the Hot Dog

A hot dog eating a hot dog.
A hot dog eating a hot dog. / Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Sausages have been around at least since ancient Mesopotamia—and even made a cameo in Homer’s Odyssey—so there isn’t exactly a birth certificate marking the appearance of the first “modern” hot dog.

But what we do know is that in the past several centuries, a thriving culture has sprung up around everyone’s favorite meat cylinder. And on this episode of Food History, Mental Floss host Justin Dodd is talking all about it.

We have German immigrants to thank for popularizing the snack as a classic New York City street food, but the hot dog's influence extends far beyond city limits. From Mexico’s Sonora dog to Thailand’s Khanom Tokyo dog, the dish has quite a few global variations. And as for whether it’s a sandwich, that depends on whom you ask.

Press play below to follow hot dogs from the 15th century to the present day, featuring an investigation of the contested history of Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest and also the phrase dough kimono (hot dog bun).

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