Archive for August, 2017

The Dog Days of Summer

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

It’s August, and we’re deep in the dog days of summer.

Ever wonder where the term “dog days of summer” comes from? It goes back to ancient times when the Greeks equated the rising of the star Sirius, aka the “dog star,” with the sultriest days of summer.

So let’s just give in, accept that we’re going to sweat through our clothes today, grab a cool drink and spend some time on the internet with dogs!

Let’s start with this adorable puppy picture.

Animal Planet, naturally, has a page dedicated to dogs.

Did you know that NYC has an annual dachshund parade?

Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of literary dogs.

And here are some mythological dogs.

Here’s a picture of the dog star itself, taken from the Hubble Telescope (on the bottom)!

“Dogs in Space” is a 1986 movie from Australia. It doesn’t seem to be about dogs at all.

The New York Times had a hot dog tasting test earlier this year.

Pleb Summer: Pink Lemonade

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

Pleb summer is all about finding cheap and relaxing ways to escape the heat. One of the most popular ways to do this (and one of the least expensive) is to pour a nice, cold glass of lemonade. But if you find yourself reaching for the pink lemonade (c’mon millennials – we’re looking at you), it may interest you to know the history of this beverage.

While traditional lemonade can trace its start in America back to the 17th century, the pink variety dates to the 19th century. Though it is hard to confirm the exact origin; most stories place the genesis of this beverage in the circus. One story claims that Henry E. Allot (a man who actually ran away to join the circus) accidentally dropped some red cinnamon candies into a batch of lemonade he was preparing to sell. Instead of making a new vat, he simply sold the pink lemonade.

A similar, albeit slightly more disgusting, tale is linked to Pete Conklin, but in this version the role of the candy is played by pink-tights. Conklin used a tub to make lemonade that had just been used by a female performer to wash her laundry. Instead of dumping the discolored drink he passed it off as “strawberry flavored.” Yum.

Not pictured: dirty laundry

As for how our pink lemonade gets its color today, the answer is slightly surprising. Pink lemons are real (and were discovered in Eureka, California in the 1930s), but their juice is clear, like any other lemon. And while homemade pink lemonade is often made with strawberries, raspberries, or cranberries – the store bought varieties are usually tinted with grape extract. To be fair, all of that sounds better than dirty laundry water.

Pleb Summer: Hot Dogs

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

It’s summertime, which means it’s time for trips to the beach house, a cross-country road trip, or travel to exotic vacation destinations.

But for those of us who can’t spare the time or the money to make a getaway, it’s PlebSummer! We’re posting this summer about summer for the rest of us.

A key element of enjoying Pleb Summer is the consumption of copious amounts of hot dogs. And while it may not be a good idea to think about what your hot dog is made of, we thought it might be interesting to learn about the history of this piece of Americana.

“Hot dogs are proof God loves us and wants us to be happy” -No One

The sausage has existed for hundreds of years with Gaius, the cook for Emperor Nero, often being given the credit of creating the first. From there, the history of the hot dog (like most foods) becomes tricky to pin down. The sausage moved across Europe, and both Frankfurt and Vienna in Germany claim to be home to the “frankfurter” and “wiener” respectively. But seeing as a hot dog is nothing without the bun, the birth of this delicious treat does not really occur until the 1860s in New York City, where German immigrants sold hot dogs on milk rolls with sauerkraut (yum).

One of the earliest peddlers of the hot dog proper was Charles Feltman, who sold franks from a stand in Coney Island, Brooklyn. By the turn of the century, Charles had upgraded the stand to a full-blown restaurant – Feltman’s German Gardens – a complex serving beer and food that ran down West 10th Street, from Surf Avenue to the beach. While the focus switched to seafood, Feltman kept seven grills open serving hot dogs for 10 cents a pop. The story goes that it was while working one of these grills that a young Nathan Handwerker started saving his money to open his own establishment. In 1916 he leased a space on Surf Avenue, and started selling hot dogs for 5 cents. His plan to undersell the competition worked, and today Nathan’s Famous is a recognized brand nationwide. You can grab a Nathan’s dog in Coney Island, in numerous food courts, or from your local grocery store -but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has heard of Feltman’s.

By the Great Depression, the hot dog was enjoyed across the nation. In 1939 Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt served them to King George VI as part of a picnic lunch at Hyde Park (they were supposedly well received). Today we eat them all summer long – at ball games, backyard barbecues, beach concerts, or just around the dinner table.

However, we don’t all eat them the same way. In Chicago, dogs are placed on a poppy-seed bun and topped with tomato, pickle, peppers, onion, relish, and mustard. In the Midwest they have the “Coney dog” which is topped with chili, cheese, and onion. Arizona is home to the Sonoran dog, which is wrapped in bacon and topped with pinto beans, mayo, chopped tomatoes, onions and jalapeños. The good people of Seattle eat dogs covered in cream cheese, grilled onions, jalapeños, and cabbage. And, for our money, you can’t go wrong with a traditional New York City hot dog – served from a cart, boiled in suspicious water, and topped with saucy, sweet red onions.

So make sure the next time you and a friend are “grabbing some dog” as the kids call it, you tell them all about the history of the hot dog – they’ll thank you for it.