The truth about the US' most iconic food
If there’s any food that represents Americana, it’s the humble hot dog. Today, these bunned frankfurters are sold at every baseball game, grilled at nearly every backyard barbecue and available at roadside convenience stores from the Carolinas to California. In fact, this most archetypal of American foods originated as the US started to stitch itself back together in the 1860s following the American Civil War and forge its new identity. But while you can now find these seasoned sausage sandwiches across the American heartland, the hot dog’s iconic home is on the boardwalk at New York’s Coney Island.
As the city was sweating its way through a heat wave, I recently descended into the furnace that was the New York City subway and fled Manhattan for the soothing breezes of the Coney Island seashore. The beachside Brooklyn amusement park is a mixture of kitsch and family-friendly fun: its wooden boardwalk and golden sand is crowded with rides, games and food joints that have catered to hardworking New Yorkers for more than a century. On the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues, I saw a swell of beachgoers line up under tall, white signs bearing the name ‘Nathan’s Famous’ that proudly advertises: ‘This is the original: World famous frankfurters since 1916’.
前不久，在熱浪席卷這座城市時，我走進像火爐一樣的紐約市地鐵，逃離曼哈頓，來到康尼島的海灘享受徐徐海風。布魯克林海濱游樂園是一個俗氣但卻適合家庭出游的好地方：木板棧道兩旁和金色的沙灘上擠滿了游樂設施以及游戲和美食攤位，一個多世紀以來，一直為辛勤工作的紐約人提供節假日休息娛樂的服務。在瑟夫大道（Surf Avenue）和史迪威大道（Stillwell Avenue）相交的拐角處，我看到一群游客正在寫著“內森熱狗店”（Nathan's Famous）的白色招牌下排隊。招牌自豪地宣稱“正宗老字號：本店自1916年開始售賣舉世聞名的法蘭克福香腸。”
Yet, a mere two blocks away, I spotted another sign attached to a small shop directly beside the historic Cyclone rollercoaster that read: ‘Feltman’s of Coney Island: The original hot dog – 1867’.
Up to that point, I’d thought that Coney Island hot dogs began and ended with Nathan’s, whose name has been synonymous with the seaside theme park for as long as anyone can remember. But while Nathan’s boasts that it’s ‘the original’, it turns out that they weren’t even the first company on the boardwalk to bun a hot dog. According to Brooklyn native and Coney Island historian Michael Quinn, a German immigrant named Charles L Feltman was serving hot dogs along the bustling strip decades before Nathan’s was conceived.
在那之前，我一直以為康尼島熱狗自始至終都指的是內森熱狗店的熱狗，因為自我們記事以來，內森熱狗這個名字就一直是這家海濱主題公園的代名詞。然而，盡管內森熱狗自詡“正宗老字號”，事實卻證明他們甚至不是海濱木板步道上第一家制作熱狗的公司。據布魯克林本地人、康尼島歷史學家奎因（Michael Quinn）所說，早在內森熱狗店誕生的幾十年前，一個名叫費爾特曼（Charles L Feltman）的德國移民就在這條繁華的大道上開始賣熱狗了。
Feltman came to the US in 1856. Like many German immigrants at the time, he brought with him a fondness for the frankfurter sausages that were common in his homeland. A trained baker, Feltman opened a Brooklyn bakery in 1865 and earned a decent living delivering pies to Coney Island businesses from a push cart, while selling clams on the side.
As the newly opened Coney Island and Brooklyn Railroad brought many more people to the seaside from Manhattan in the late 1860s, customers told Feltman that they wanted to eat hot food, not cold clams, according to Richard F Snow, the former editor of American Heritage Magazine. So in 1867, Feltman called on the wheelwright who’d originally made his cart and asked him to modify it. The craftsman built a custom charcoal brazier for cooking sausages and a metal box for warming bread.
據曾任《美國傳統》（American Heritage）雜志編輯的斯諾（Richard F Snow）稱，19世紀60年代末，隨著新建的康尼島至布魯克林鐵路把越來越多的游客從曼哈頓運送到康尼島的海邊，游客告訴費爾特曼，他們想吃熱的東西，而不是冷冰冰的蛤蜊。于是在1867年，費爾特曼找到起初給他制造手推車的那名車匠將他的手推車做了改裝。對方為他做了一個定制炭盆和一個金屬盒子，前者烹制香腸，后者加熱面包。
That summer, as much of the nation was recovering from the Civil War, Feltman pushed his custom cart up and down the Coney Island sand, selling nearly 4,000 ‘Coney Island red hots’ in his signature long bun for a nickel each. It was that bun, a modification from the way frankfurters were served back in Germany without bread, that made the sausage easy to eat at the beach. The term ‘hot dog’ wouldn’t be coined for some years yet, but Feltman’s American beachside take on the German beer-garden speciality proved to be a sizzling success.
In 1871, Feltman leased a small seaside plot on West 10th Street and opened a restaurant called Feltman’s Ocean Pavilion. With success came expansion, and by the turn of the century, Feltman’s humble pie cart had grown into a full-on empire spanning an entire block – complete with nine restaurants, a roller coaster, carousel, ballroom, outdoor movie theatre, hotel, beer garden, bathhouse, pavilion and Alpine village that once hosted US president William Howard Taft.
1871年，費爾特曼在西10街租了一小塊臨海的土地，開了一家名為費爾特曼海洋館（Feltman's Ocean Pavilion）的海濱餐廳。生意的成功帶來了生意規模的擴大。到世紀之交，他那輛簡陋的餡餅推車已經演變成為一個全面開花的商業帝國，占據了整個街區：總共包括九家餐廳、一座過山車、一臺旋轉木馬、一家舞廳、一家露天電影院、一家旅館、一個露天啤酒店、一家澡堂、一個露天售賣亭和一個曾接待過美國總統塔夫脫（William Howard Taft）的高山度假村。
According to Sharon Seitz and Stuart Miller in their book, The Other Islands of New York City, Feltman even persuaded Andrew Culver, president of the Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad, to extend his new railroad’s timetable so customers could stay at Feltman’s for dinner. At its peak, Feltman’s managed to churn out up to 40,000 red hots a day, as well as seafood dinners in the more salubrious surroundings of his Ocean Pavilion complex. Feltman died in 1910 a wealthy man. His company, by then managed by his sons Charles and Alfred, employed more than 1,000 people, and by the 1920s, Feltman’s was considered the largest restaurant in the world.
據塞茨（Sharon Seitz）和米勒（Stuart Miller）在他們合著的《紐約市島嶼縱觀》（The Other Islands of New York City）一書所述，費爾特曼甚至說服展望公園（Prospect Park） 和康尼島鐵路（Coney Island Railroad）的總裁卡爾弗（Andrew Culver）延長新鐵路的運行時間，好給游客時間能在費爾特曼餐廳吃晚餐。巔峰時期，費爾特曼餐館每天要烹制4萬根紅色熱腸才能滿足游客的需要，此外還有環境宜人的海洋館所提供的海鮮大餐。1910年去世時，費爾特曼已身家不菲。彼時，費爾特曼的公司由兒子查爾斯（Charles）和阿爾弗雷德（Alfred）管理，員工超過1000人。到20世紀20年代，費爾特曼海洋餐廳被認為是全世界最大的餐廳。
In the midst of this early 20th-Century red hot boom, the Feltman family hired a Polish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker whose job was to slice the rolls. According to Lloyd Handwerker (Nathan’s grandson) in his book Famous Nathan, after two friends encouraged Handwerker to open up his own red hot business, he sometimes slept on the kitchen floor at Feltman’s to save money. Then in 1916, armed with a $300 loan and his wife’s family’s recipe, Handwerker opened his own shop mere blocks away from his old employer. Handwerker realised that to compete he needed to appeal to the masses, so he sold his hot dogs at a nickel each, undercutting Feltman’s, who by then, charged a dime for theirs.
在20世紀初期紅色熱腸正繁榮興旺之時，費爾特曼家族雇傭了一個名叫內森·漢德韋克（Nathan Handwerker）的波蘭移民，他的工作是把面包從中間切開。據勞埃德·漢德韋克（內森的孫子）在《大名鼎鼎的內森》（Famous Nathan）書中寫道，兩個朋友鼓勵漢德韋克開始自己的紅色熱腸生意后，漢德韋克為了攢錢有時就睡在費爾特曼餐廳廚房的地上。1916年，懷揣借來的300美元和妻子家的菜譜，漢德韋克在離老東家僅幾個街區的地方開了一家自己的店。漢德韋克意識到，要想參與競爭，他必須能夠吸引大眾。于是，他把自己的熱狗定價5美分，低于費爾特曼熱狗的售價。那時，費爾特曼熱狗的售價為10美分。
After a rocky ride during the Great Depression and World War Two, the Feltman family eventually sold their business in the 1940s. The new owners nursed along a business whose tagline had once had been the ‘caterer to millions’ before closing its doors for good in 1954. For the first time in over half a century, Nathan’s was the only hot dog to be reckoned with on Coney Island’s boardwalk, and the many fans of Feltman’s larger, juicier franks were left hungry for more.<紐約時報中英文網 http://www.uydujn.live/>
“My grandfather was a faithful Feltman’s customer during the Depression era,” Quinn said.
“How did the two compare?” I asked Quinn.
“My grandfather said he always preferred the overall quality of Feltman’s to Nathan’s,” he replied. Even though Quinn wasn’t alive to ever taste the original Feltman’s hot dogs before it closed, his grandfather’s stories of eating Coney Island red hots stayed with him – so much so that as an adult, “I set out to recreate my grandfather’s experience,” he told me.
Quinn and his two brothers grew up in southern Brooklyn, and Coney Island was their playground. As a child, Quinn dreamed of opening a business with his siblings, but when his brother Jimmy passed away in the World Trade Center on 9/11, he and his brother Joe decided to honour Jimmy by resurrecting the Feltman’s brand. Fortunately, Quinn’s grandfather was good friends with a former employee who made Feltman’s hot dogs and he gave him the original Frankfurter spice blend Feltman used in his red hots. Quinn’s grandfather later passed this recipe along to Quinn. Several years and a “few bucks” later, Quinn purchased the Feltman’s name in 2015 and opened a tiny takeout window from the inside of a theatre in the East Village. He was finally able to reopen Feltman’s in the exact same location as Feltman’s original Coney Island restaurant in May 2017.
As the historical wooden Cyclone creaked and rattled in the background, a small group of customers gathered outside Feltman’s. Quinn asked me if I wanted to try one of his red hots. Made from premium beef with just the right measure of spices and no additives, it was as tasty as he had promised. He added a heap of sauerkraut to give just a hint of sharpness, and a squirt of mustard, made with his own recipe. At first, I hesitated to add mustard. But when Quinn looked disappointed that I wasn’t going to try his signature blend, I changed my mind.
It was good – so good in fact, that in the past few years, Feltman’s has been named one of the US’ 10 best hot dogs by The Daily Meal, with Gothamist declaring, “There is only one item on the Feltman's menu, and it's a hot dog... but it's likely to be the best hot dog you'll ever eat in your life.” Today, Feltman’s hot dogs are available in roughly 1,500 supermarkets from New York to California, and just last week, it set the Guinness World Record for creating the world’s largest hot dog: a 75lb, 5ft-long bunned behemoth.
好吃，實際上非常好吃，以至過去幾年里，費爾特曼熱狗被《每日一餐》（The Daily Meal）評為美國十佳熱狗之一，美國網絡媒體 Gothamist 也宣稱：“費爾特曼熱狗店的菜單上只有一款食物，那就是熱狗……但這可能是你一生中吃過的最好吃的熱狗。”如今，從紐約到加利福尼亞，費爾特曼熱狗在大約1500家超市有售。就在上周，費爾特曼熱狗還因為制作了一個75磅重、5英尺長的巨型面包而創造了全世界最大的熱狗吉尼斯世界紀錄。
And what of Nathan’s? Handwerker’s business acumen and his wife’s grandmother’s recipe laid the foundation for an international empire whose products are now sold in more than 55,000 supermarkets, club stores and restaurants across more than 10 countries.
Today, Nathan’s Famous Inc.’s international Hot Dog Eating Contest, which has taken place each 4 July since 1972 at its original Coney Island location, is televised across the country. While the Nathan’s name and its annual gross income of more than $40 million now dominate Feltman’s franks, that doesn’t necessarily mean they're the best. Allegedly, the Guinness World Records competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi (who knows a thing or two about seasoned sausage after winning the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest six straight times) prefers the taste of Feltman’s.
如今，內森熱狗公司（Nathan's Famous Inc.）舉辦的國際吃熱狗大賽（Hot Dog Eating Contest）在全國進行電視轉播。自1972年以來，該比賽每年7月4日在科尼島內森熱狗店老店舉行。盡管現在和費爾特曼熱狗相比，內森熱狗的牌子及其每年超過4000萬美元的總收入讓內森占了上風，但這并不一定意味著內森是最好吃的。據說，挑戰吉尼斯世界紀錄的小林尊（Takeru Kobayashi）更喜歡費爾特曼熱狗的味道。小林尊連續六次贏得內森熱狗舉辦的吃熱狗大賽，他對調味香腸的味道如何多少知道一些。
But don’t just take Kobayashi’s word for it. Find Feltman’s in the supermarket aisle, order Nathan’s across the globe and decide for yourself which is your favourite.