Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot Dogs, Weiners and Wursts

A Food Lover's Guide to the Arts

An American Icon

Wayne Thiebaud, Five Hot Dogs, 1951

Wayne Thiebaud, Hot Dog Row
, 2000

Paul McCarthy (b. 1945, Salt Lake City, Utah), "Hotdog," 1974
Performance Art, Pasadena, CA. Could this image in any way be connected with the Bee Gee's disco hit, "Grease is da Word"?

Missing: Mel Ramos (Sacramento, CA, 1935) Miss Great American Hotdog, 1972
A project for Playboy magazine. (image not available)

Jim Davis, Garfield The Cat ["They're learning"], June 22, 2010 Garfield lands a hot dog.

Hot dog stand on the boardwalk at Convention City, Atlantic City, NJ [about 1938. From]

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Hot Dog (1984)
Born in Kam loops, British Columbia 1957), the artist is influenced by his western art training and his native American roots in the Cowichan Salish and Okanagan nations.

A Memoir:

When I was a kid growing up in a small farm center and blue collar manufacturing town, there wasn't much in the way of culinary sophistication, ethnic color or chic eateries. All that was found in Manhattan, downriver.

Sure, we had our Greek diners, the German Tavern (It became Louis' Tavern right after the War began), Howard-Johnson's downtown for ladies' lunch, and the Chinese hole-in-the wall serving, somewhat formally, chicken chow mien for 79 cents by small, quiet young men in white coats and black ties. I had no idea then about garlic, fish and soy sauce, ginger,spring onions, celery and flat noodles.

But best was the grungy-looking Texas Lunch on upper Main Street, right at the edge of the small trade district and around the corner from the cigar factory. The big cracked and cock-eyed yellow sign advertised sandwiches, steaks and chops, but what this Tex-Mex oasis
sold the most of was "Texas Wieners."and orange Nehi soda in a tall bottle.

Inside was a long white desolate counter accompanied by a line of usually empty stools. The action was up front, jammed under the big dingy plate glass front window: a greasy grill surrounded by pans and jars of pickles, chopped onions, and a mysterious brown hot sauce. My dad used to take me there on those occasions when we attended a fifteen-cent double feature down town. Walking home up Main Street one could small the wieners a good two blocks sway. Raised on milder fare in rural New England, dad passed on the impending heartburn , but I ordered a "Texas foot-long with everything." and a Nehi.

A truly American expedience.

A recipe for the Texas Lunch sauce is available by and Rosalie E. from across the Hudson River in New Paltz, New York:

Hot dogs have been on American tables since the mid-nineteenth century and are largely represented today by the big brands like Oscar Meyer,Hebrew National, Ball Park, and so forth, taking their place along with other popular products like 7-Up, roast beef, Dole pineapple, peanut butter and pancakes.

But Americans have become more sophisticated about their commercially-prepared cuisine. In recent years (as reported by the NYTimes on July, 4, 2010, "Red, White and Kosher" by Sue Fishkoff). Hebrew National is now officially Kosher and, since 2004, even uber Kosher.

Below: Sketch by Chris Silas Neal for an article in the NY Times, "Red, White and Kosher" by Sue Fishkoff, July 4, 2010, p.A7.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt served his guest, the King of England, hot dogs at a picnic in Hyde Park, NY, 1939. I was not invited for the at event, but I glimpsed the royal pair as they sped through town in an open car about 11:00 AM that day. I was eight years old.

Below: Tom Wesselman, Still Life #30, 1963
It has often been said that "Wesselman' s ticket to artistic fame came from the kitchen."

In 1929 photographer Walker Evans captured these young women outside of Bloomingdale's Department Store, New York City


The "history" of the hot dog in this country are, in fact, a composit of legends and memoir {see History and Legends of Hot Dogs]. It is also the subject pursued by countless newspaper reports, seeking the best hot dog in town. To begin at the beginning, one is directed to visit the website,

A summary includes the following:

In 1867, Charles Feltman (1841-1910), a butcher, opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand in Brooklyn, NY.

In 1880, a German peddler sold hot sausages in the streets of St. Louis, Missouri. When he decided to serve them inside a bun, he called them "red hots."

H. L. Mencken claims to have eaten the "new fangled" hot dogs in Baltimore in 1886 Chicago claims to be the first city to serve hot dogs the presents its own distinctive "Chicago style" dog, boiled, grilled or steamed, on a poppy seed bun and usually topped with condiments, pickles, cucumbers or peppers, and brown mustard but never ketchup. Chicago's claim of first rights comes from the Columbia Exposition of 1893.

Rhode Islanders Make Their Weiner a Big Deal:

Rhode Island Weiners or "Gaggers" are made with beef, pork and veal, Hot weiners Rhode Island style (and don't say hot dog!) include " all the way" and the Royal Lunch serves hot weiners all day, saying:

"Neva'a lack of Weiner Joints in Rhod'Dylin"


Historians , to this day, have not found any evidence to back up the claim that hot dogs were sold at Sportsman's Park. However, hot dog sales increased when coupled with a sports message

"Swing for the fence." Don't swing for the fence unless it's an easy ball. Be content with running part way. Here, the advertisement implies that one doesn't have to hold back or be cautious about eating a hot dog.

Foreign Interests Could Be Wurst:

Russian Sosiski (sausags) "Ask everywhere for sausages"

Throughout the twentieth century food has been used as an artistic medium in painting, sculpture, collage, performance and conceptual art.

From the art of the 1920s to the works of the international FLUXUS group of the 1970s and other contemporary artists. Edible materials have been a powerful medium for speaking about consumption, politics and art making itself.

Three German artists are particularly important: Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth, and Sonja Alhauser.

Sonja Alhauser (1969, German) Deerburger, 2001

Dieter Roth (Hanover 1930-Basel, Switzerland, 1988), Literaturwurst, 1961

Roth denied any beauty in art. but was deeply interested in food as an art medium In the 1960s he began working with chocolate.

For Literaturwurst he shredded and chopped publications by Georg Wilhelm Frederich Hegel, stuffed them into sausage casings and display them...his critique of metaphysics.

Joseph Beuys (b. Krefeld, Germany, 1921-1986)

Beuys, 1980 in his trademark a felt Trilby hat, from Lock & Co. of St James, London.One of the best-known contemporary artists, mythic and inspiring.

He was associated with FLUXUS, installations, conceptual and performance art.

Beuys was one of the founders of the German Green Party and active in music and literature. His most remembered "protest"performance art, using food-in-art, was his decision to throw several German wursts (sauasges) over the Berlin Wall, from West to East, an act pressing for German reconciliation.

He died in 1986, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. His work and ideas are bestt represented at the The Modern in London.

Jan Cremer (b. Holland, 1940) Hot Dog USA #8 (1967)

A Literary Sausage Story:

Uwe Timm (b. Hamburg, Germany,1940) wrote The Invention of Curried Sausage, 1997 [translated by Leila Vennewitz].

One of modern Germany's great authors wrote this delightful story about a German soldier who deserts, hides and is accidentally part of the events that produced Germany's delicacy, currywurst [Film version 2008].

American Pop and Other Styles:

Kirk Fanelly, Woman Eating Two Hot Dogs, 2005

Fanelly's images are often exaggerated situations or outrageous, such as the take on Jonathan Swift's 1729 satirical essay, "A Modest Proposal."

Fanelly, It Might Be A Good Idea to Eat Babies

Below: Roy Lichtenstein, Hot Dog, 1963

Andy Warhol, Hot Dog Bean Soup, 1969 (screen print)

Jim Dine, Hot Dog, 2003

Roxy Paine (b. 1966, New York) Headcheese, 2004 (Pigmented cast apoxy resins). He works mainly in 3-dimensional formats, metallic sculpture of trees, paper, etc.

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