(CBS) Dr. Bruce Kraig, the author of "Man Bites Dog" calls hot dogs one of the most humble of all foods and a symbol of America.
"It goes back to American history. It's the history of immigration into America, brought by German immigrants and then taken up by Greeks, Jews and many others and turned into local culture, regional culture," Kraig said.
And it's deeply embedded in the idea of the American Dream and how "food is the way up."
"I mean, the immigrant experience, people came with no money at all. And you could buy, let's say we're talking about 1900, you could buy a sausage for a penny and the other accouterments for a penny and you sell it for a nickel," Kraig said. "And that's the way you move up in the world, and this was an American idea."
As for the many regional variations of hot dogs, Kraig said "hot dogs are a platform for culture."
"They become regional because immigrant groups like Greeks move to Detroit, and for added value they put something on the hot dog to compete with others, and this becomes a sauce which they called Coney Sauce from Coney Island," he said. "This is in 1919, 1920, and so everybody there likes that, and that becomes the style."
As for the origins of the hot dog name? It dates back to the mid-19th century.
Kraig said it came from the song "Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Done" - which is about a dog that was being put in a hot dog machine.
"People would say when a butcher moved into town, all the cats and dogs disappeared, so it's that jokey word," he said.
July 4th is the biggest hot dog day of the year with 155 million dogs consumed, enough to stretch from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C five times! No surprise, then, that July is National Hot Dog Month.
The unofficial hot dog season runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, NHDSC says, a period when Americans consume 818 hot dogs every second for a total of 7 billion hot dogs.
Which state on average eats the most dogs on July 4? Roughly one-fourth of all citizens of Iowa ate hot dogs and pork sausages on the holiday last year.
$1 billion result from the total revenue of boiler chicken from 6 of the nation’s states: Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.
Even the Dakotas get into the mix: 2/5 of the baked beans we eat come from North Dakota, which produced about 39% of the nation’s dry and edible beans over the last five years.
Potato salad and potato chips ? On average, half of the nation’s potatoes come from Idaho or Washington.
Florida usually leads in watermelon production, totaling 861 million pounds/year.
Tongue in Cheek, Bun In Hand: The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council has some hot dog etiquette tips such as: Don't take more than five bites to finish a hot dog, don't use ketchup on your hot dog after age 18, and never use utensils with hot dogs.
If you’re not a carnivore and prefer a grilled carrot nestled in your hot dog bun (don’t knock it till you try it), here are some other meatless alternatives that you can toss on the grill:
Pineapple rings, topped with cinnamon and sugar
Portobello mushrooms, with their meaty flavor and texture, these ‘shrooms make a nice stand-in for a burger
Eggplant, similar to portobello mushrooms in satisfaction
Sweet potatoes or yams, terrific with butter, honey and cinnamon drizzled over them
Corn on the cob, personal fave, drizzled with butter and BBQ sauce