According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (no, I didn’t know there was one of those either), consumers spent more than $1.7 billion dollars on hot dogs in U.S. supermarkets in 2011. Altogether, Americans consume more than 20 billion hot dogs in a year. Say what you will, make your little jokes about unknown ingredients, but in this country there are a lot of people eating a lot of hot dogs every day.

When and Where

While there isn’t any hard and fast rule about the right time to eat a good hot dog, there is definitely a peak season. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans will put away 7 billion hot dogs. If you do some slightly frightening math on that, it works out to about 818 hot dogs consumed every second during that period. In the middle of all that, July has become National Hot Dog Month because this is when 10% of all hot dog sales actually occur.

Hot dogs are, of course, a great option almost anywhere, but nearly 20 million hot dogs will be eaten at baseball parks every year. Whether it’s tradition, or just a willingness of the ballparks to make a very unique hot dog, this just seems to be the right place to sit back and enjoy the local specialty.

History of the Hot Dog

Sausages, frankfurters, and wieners have been around for ages, but the hot dog itself is a comparatively recent development (okay, it’s been a hundred years or so, but sausages have been around for thousands, so this counts as recent). The biggest difference came with the inclusion of the bun. While there is some historical debate, but it most likely had something to do with a sausage vendor looking for a cost effective way to let his customers handle the food without getting burned.

The name, however, came from a cartoonist in 1901. He was at a baseball game at the Polo Grounds in New York, where the vendors were selling hot dachshund sausages. The cartoonist could hear what the vendors were yelling, but wasn’t sure how to actually spell dachshund, so he just called them hot dogs, and the name stuck.

Etiquette

It’s unlikely you’re ever going to be chastised for using the wrong fork at a backyard BBQ, but there are a few things that you should keep in mind when serving up this year’s dogs. First, always dress the dog, not the bun. Ketchup, mustard, relish, and everything else is there to complement the dog, not a piece of bread.

Second, always have a napkin handy. That little drop of mustard in the corner of your mouth isn’t going to impress anyone. Neither is wiping it on your sleeve. And finally, the proper side dish is a handful of chips, not French fries.

If you’re into wieners, listen in on Dan Pashman and Mark Garrison in The Sporkful’s podcast on hot dogs.