What’s good enough to serve hordes of hungry baseball fans is good enough to serve the King of England – or so President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought.
And surely, what could be more American than processed meat grilled over a carcinogenic fire?
As war threatened over Europe, King George VI, visiting with Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, joined FDR and members of his staff on June 11, 1939, at the President’s residence in Hyde Park, New York. Showing some gastrodiplomacy, the menu that day included “Hot Dogs (weather permitting)”.
“What should I do?”
“A lot of times when we’re trying to define a national food culture in the United States, it’s really hard to do,” said Smithsonian food historian Dr. Ashley Rose Young. “In the modern context, people often cite things like McDonald’s or international fast food cultures. But if you go back to the 1800s or even all the way back to the 1950s, when you ask anybody to define American culture, they go by regional cultures, and the hot dog was a regional food that was gaining popularity outside of the Northeast.
The two British royalty were treated to good ‘old’ American delicacies – albeit presented on a silver platter.
And while no one could be Joey Chestnut, the King and Queen Mother reportedly asked Roosevelt how exactly the thin log of meat was supposed to be removed properly.
“Very simple,” retorted FDR. “Push it into your mouth and keep pushing it until it’s completely gone.”
The queen chose to use a fork and knife instead.
Gastrodiplomacy takes root
Who needs shuttle diplomacy when you have hot dog diplomacy? The hospitality trend quickly took off, with the Roosevelts serving the same meal to the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway just 15 days later.
The American Embassy in France took notice and, perhaps to the delight of a few and the horror of many (of the French), “served the delicacy without the bun” to diplomats and “la French company in Paris”, according to Atlas Obscura.
During the war, the United States Embassy in Moscow hosted a July 4 party that included hot dogs with buns and mustard and, of course, vodka.
“While the first decade or so of hot dog diplomacy could be attributed to the initial burst of media attention, its endurance signaled a more intentional effort by American diplomats and their counterparts,”
In 1954, to celebrate the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth, the US government put its taxpayers’ money to good use and airlifted 100 hot dogs and buns (with mustard of course) to the Queen.
Two years later, the royal returned the favor by serving the ubiquitous American sausage to visiting members of the American Bar Association.
So think about it, the next time you decide to grill some sausages, you’re eating like kings.