It’s all over the news: American kids are choking to death on hot dogs. In fact, the latest news is that hot dogs are the leading cause of choking among children in America.
I live in a metropolitan area that has a population of 1.5 million people, and there is not one German restaurant. That’s because German food is now American food: hot dogs, franks, hamburgers, cole slaw, potato salad, chicken fried steak, apple turnovers, cheese cake, pancakes, etc. etc. etc.
The original hot dog was a Wienerwurst – the specialty of the city of Wien (Vienna). German immigrants introduced these sausages in America.
In my day, young children didn’t choke on hot dogs, which were called Wieners or Weenies back then. The reason was, undoubtedly, because Wieners were originally made with a tough casing that could only be chewed by a child with a full set of teeth. The casing was made out of animal gut. Today’s hot dogs are skinless and can be eaten by babies with no teeth.
When I was a child, Wieners were regularly on our menu. Except on Sunday, when we had Frankfurters. Maybe Frankfurters were more expensive and that’s the reason my mother served them only on Sunday. Frankfurters were usually cut with a fork, but Weiners would sometimes be eaten with the fingers, since the tough casing was hard to cut.
There used to be a big difference between Wieners and Frankfurters. Wieners were long and skinny and had a mild taste – like veal. Frankfurters were short and fat and tasted like beef. Now they are both sold as “hot dogs.”
Both Frankfurters and Wieners used to come in a long strip of casing which was tied off to make the individual sausages. My mother purchased them from the local butcher shop which made the sausages on the premises. She would bring home the Franks or Wieners wrapped in white paper and throw them into a big pot of boiling water, still tied together. When the casing burst open on one or two of the sausages, they were ready to serve – on a plate piled high with homemade sauerkraut, of course. The hot dog bun is an American invention, which my German-American family never used.
In my day, I never heard of anyone choking on a Wiener or a Frankfurter. They were not for babies or toddlers. Maybe the solution is to ban skinless hot dogs and bring back the original Wiener made with a tough casing.