Things I Learned Today.

Things I Learned Today – November 8th, 2008

I have a tendency to start randomly writing diaries, notebooks, stories about my life that last about two or three entries then lie dormant and unwritten for days, weeks, or months until a burst of inspiration drives me to revisit the old and neglected tomes. At the same time, these bursts of inspiration seem to correspond with moments of self-criticism, demanding greater attention to the pursuit of my job, education, personal fitness, improved will-power, or some other reasonable demand of self-improvement overanalyzed to the nth degree. I am hoping that continuing with this online record might force me to a more consistent and healthy mode of record keeping. That being said, I have learned that working seven days a week sometimes leads me to forget what day of the week it is, and consequently forget to finish writing this week’s entry before it becomes next week’s entry.

I dressed like a 80s rock drummer for Halloween: leopard print tights, bright blue headband, wife-beater t-shirt, etc. I met a girl at a party and talked to her for about an hour. I didn’t get her number though, because that would just make too much sense. I find that I am incredibly engaging for about that long, or maybe a little less, but I have no successful way of moving from “incredibly engaging” to “interesting enough to talk to twice.” I guess it’s a good thing I love to learn things, because I seem to get educated quite often. This weekend, most of which was spent on the couch, I was watching too much TV again, as has been happening on a regular basis since the weather has turned gray and rainy and I am still halfway a cripple. A T-mobile commercial asked the question of what is in a hotdog. My immediate answer to this question was, as most of you probably expect, “lips and assholes.” This got me to investigate the history of the sausage, one riddled with legends and stories, but ultimately, one that parallels the history of the human race.

The sausage, a combination of meats, various internal organs, spices, fruits, vegetables, processed, blended, and stuffed into a skin, synthetic or animal, sealed and boiled, baked, grilled, roasted, microwaved or raw, has been around for centuries, with references in literature dating back to the epics of Homer, one dish that has held true to its identity, stuck by mankind through trials and tribulations, remains a steadfast dietary staple to this day. The word sausage originates from the Latin word salsus, which means salted or preserved. Different varieties developed according to available spices, which were used both for flavor and preservative, and meats, which reach across the animal kingdom. Climate also played an important role in the development of fresh sausage, especially in northern latitudes, and dry sausage primarily in warmer regions. Smoking allowed fresh sausage to be preserved through the summer months. Villages and towns soon developed specialty sausages, each unique and most of them delicious.

Gaius, cook to Emperor Nero Claudius Ceasar, is sometimes credited with discovering that pig intestines, when accidentally cooked within a roasted pig, puffed up and remained hollow. He was reported to have exclaimed, “I have discovered something of great importance.” We can probably thank the Germans for what we would consider the first hot dog. Dachshund sausages were supposedly developed by Johann Georghehner in the 1690’s, associating the sausage with canus familiaris, likely the origin of the term “hot dog,” later coined by New York Journal cartoonist Tad Dorgan in 1901. It is believed the frankfurter was developed in Frankfurt, Germany in 1484, a particularly thick, soft, and fatty sausage akin to modern hot dogs. German immigrants to America in the nineteenth century are known to have sold sausages with milk rolls and sauerkraut, important hot dog accoutrements to this day, on the streets of major American cities, including New York and St. Louis. In 1867, Charles Feltman opened the first hot dog stand in Coney Island and also commissioned the construction of the world’s first hot dog wagon, with built in charcoal stove for boiling water and warming buns. The Great Depression saw a decline in the mighty hot dog empire he constructed, but it did not depress America’s love of the wiener.

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans consume roughly 20 billion hot dogs per year, approximately 70 hot dogs per person. As far as ingredients are concerned, the Council insists American hot dogs consist of mainly pork, beef, chicken and turkey or a combination of meat and poultry, and the meats used in hot dogs come from the muscle of the animal; however, if the label reads “variety meats” or “with meat by-products,” the wiener may include organs such as hearts and livers. They do not mention the frequency or quantity of such ingredients in the average hot dog, but one can use the imagination. Kosher hot dogs are guaranteed pork-free, with the meat of cattle, goats, sheep, or most poultry that has been processed according to Jewish law. Other ingredients in modern hot dogs include water, curing agents, and spices, such as garlic, salt, sugar, ground mustard, nutmeg, coriander and white pepper.

I personally have not eaten a hot dog in a while, although, now that I think about it my roommate did chop up a frank to throw in a pot of macaroni I ate a couple weeks ago. I particularly remember a hot dog I received once at a golf camp shaped almost exactly like a finger. It even had a weird flat section that looked like a nail. All that aside, I do enjoy a good brat, red hot, or a foot long, but it definitely needs a good slathering of mustard and an ice cold beer to wash it down.