Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hot dogs to hush puppies

“Oh where oh where has my little dog gone?
Oh where oh where can he be?
Now sausage is good, baloney, of course.
Oh where oh where can he be?
They make them of dog, they make them of horse,
I think they made them of he.”

A popular song (1860)

Sausage meat has been a delicacy eaten for hundreds of years but sausages in a bun seems to have started in the US. Many believe it was a German Immigrant who started selling sausages on buns circa 1870. He was a vendor at Coney Island and certainly a decade later, St Louis sausage seller sold sausages in a roll because her patrons stole the complementary gloves given to them to eat the meaty treat. No one can be sure the origins of the term hot dog but the earliest reference appeared in 1893. The term dog has been used as a synonym for sausage since at least 1891 when Farmer & Henley’s Slang And Its Analogues glosses it as university slang for sausage. ‘Echoes From The Lunch Wagon’ was a poem which appeared in the Yale Record on 5th October 1895.

‘Tis dogs’ delight to bark and bite
Thus does the adage run.
But I delight to bite the dog
When placed inside the bun.

At the time dog wagons sold hot dogs at the dorms of Yale University and by 1893 hot dogs were selling at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago; and the Louisianna Purchase Fair (aka World's Fair in St Louis in1904). Soon the tasty morsels were a favourite with the crowds at major sporting stadium. King George VI (1895 - 1952) ate his first hot dog in 1939 at a picnic organised by the Roosevelts in Hyde Park.
In Cockney slang ‘dog meat’ (or plates of meat) refers to feet and when the ‘dogs are barking’ the feet are letting you know they need a rest. The origins (and etymology) of this phrase are unclear. Sometimes used as ‘my dogs are killing me’ or alternatively ‘my dogs are barking,’ all mean ‘sore feet’. Anything that would keep the feet in comfort might be said to ‘silence the dogs’ or ‘hush the puppies.’ In the culinary sense, ‘hush puppies’ describe an American savoury delicacy consisting of fried cornbread balls. The starch-based food made from cornmeal batter was rolled into small balls then deep fried or baked. A Southern delicacy it contrasts slightly from the fair from the other side of the tracks where very poor people ate deep fry salamanders (or waterdogs or water puppies). This was considered a hardship food and never spoken of for fear of the stigma of poverty. Hence they were known as ‘hush puppies.’ Fried cornmeal balls were frequently used to feed hunting or guards to keep them quiet or ‘hush the puppies.’ The term comes into the literature in 1918 but was certainly used long before that. In 1958, when Wolverine World Wide shoe company started production of shoes made from the suede of tanned pigskin the shoes were known as Hush Puppies. Jim Muir was the company's sales manager and was familiar with the tasty treats so he used a little poetic leeway and thought since sore feet were commonly referred to as a ‘barking dogs,’ the new line of shoes would act like a fried cornball and ‘hush the puppies.’ Hence they became known as Hush Puppies.

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