Column: Hot dogs! Step right up and get your hot dogs!WORTHINGTON — I am going back to the days of breakfast, dinner and supper. Breakfast, dinner, supper was the standard through the local region for many, many years. Lunch was something served to men in the harvest fields at mid-afternoon in the threshing season.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — I am going back to the days of breakfast, dinner and supper. Breakfast, dinner, supper was the standard through the local region for many, many years. Lunch was something served to men in the harvest fields at mid-afternoon in the threshing season.
Through decades, Worthington followed the time of day by listening for the steam whistle at the power plant. The whistle sounded at 12 noon. People said, “It’s dinner time.”
This memory was stirred when I was reminded lately of a popular supper from another age: fried potatoes, baked beans and wieners. The fried potatoes often were potatoes left from noon. The beans were Van Camp’s or Campbell’s; a can of either variety was an economy food. The wieners might be from a butcher shop or from a grocery store. They might be attached end-to-end but they were never in a package. There were no packaged wieners.
I knew more than one person who would sometimes stop by a butcher shop to buy a wiener for a snack. Wieners were a diet staple.
Talk of wieners came in response to a question: “Do you know when they first served hot dogs at Worthington?” I don’t know. But there was a time when few people across all the local region ate wieners on buns. Bakeries did not even have a stock of hot dog buns.
Sausages on buns were sold now and again as specialty foods — the 1893 World’s Fair at Chicago, the 1904 World’s Fair at St. Louis, the New York Giants’ Polo Grounds. Wiener sandwiches were sold at the Coney Island amusement park in Brooklyn. So it was that they came to be called Coneys. But the hot dog — the wiener and the bun together — were mostly a novelty across the local region until (about) the 1930s.
Kids had a joke from that time:
A hot dog went into a bar and ordered a beer. The bartender said, “Sorry. We don’t serve food.”
I checked memory against the Internet. Wikipedia says, “Many sources attribute the distinctive collection of toppings on a Chicago-style wiener to … the ‘Depression Sandwich’ reportedly originated by Fluky’s in 1929…” I don’t know Fluky’s but wieners in buns topped with ketchup, mustard and relish still were a rarity in Chicago in 1929. That is not even a century gone by and that is Chicago, not Worthington.
Celia Trunk found a source for 12-inch wieners. Through several years in the 1930s Celia and her family sold foot-long hot dogs from a Nobles County fair booth. People said they never saw anything like it. Most hadn’t.
The most popular — maybe the most sensational — hot dogs ever on the local market were the coneys that Lou and Lily Miller sold at their A&W root beer stand, first along Sherwood Avenue and then at the intersection of East Avenue with Highways 59-60.
Millers’ coney was a standard hot dog, snappy on the first bite, but Lou himself made the coney sauce, which was the real attraction. Lou’s recipe was secret. He would give details of it to no one.
There were several local people who worked at analyzing Lou’s sauce. They were spurred by the disappointment that the root beer stand was closed through the winter months and the coneys were not available.
Jim Vance, for one, took samples of the coney sauce to half-a-dozen or more local residents known for their cooking and asked them to analyze it. “What ingredients has Lou put together here?” No one was able to give an answer. No one was able to duplicate Lou Miller’s concoction.
When Lou made a decision to move to California — when Jim faced the prospect of never again having an A&W coney — he made a bargain with Lou to obtain the recipe. The thing everyone overlooked, the thing that made all the difference, Jim said, was oregano.
Wikipedia says Chicago has more hot dog restaurants than McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger Kings combined. To this day, hot dogs are not notably popular across the local region. I think there is no local restaurant that has wieners on its menu, and I think the only place at Worthington where you can order a hot dog is Dairy Queen.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.