Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Hot diggerty dog

Tonight, I'm having something of an anachronism. After recent random (but oddly authentic) shortages, I've managed to get my hands on some vegan hot dogs.

Hot dogs - mechanically recovered various meats with bulking agents injected into a casing made of ick - were unknown in the UK in the 1940s. The British had sausages - unrationed but scarce - but these were completely different, especially towards the end of the war, when the meat content declined to almost nothing and sometimes actually nothing.

When US forces arrived in the UK after America joined the war following Pearl Harbor, we were very pleased to see them. And they were pleased to meet us, especially as we made them so very welcome. The GIs discovered that the British public valued them more than their own civilian population did, and we were so grateful to no longer be standing alone that we did what we could to make them happy. This included Rainbow Corner in London, a 24-hour canteen and recreation club open to all GIs, made by knocking together a Delmonico's and a Lyon's Corner House.

At Rainbow Corner, a GI could get local newspapers, listen to fashionable music, get help with letter writing (and reading, such were the times) from Fred Astaire's sister Adele and other US residents in London and even get US-style food. But the GIs had one complaint - the British couldn't do hot dogs (actually, we couldn't do decent coffee either, and tea was an acquired taste; but for our purposes here, we'll stick to the food).
This lack of a basic, ordinary food stuff pained the average GI who had come to a cold, threadbare and old-fashioned country, often on his first ever trip abroad.

Hot dogs would appear in the UK in the 1950s, after rationing was done, and become popular into the 1960s and beyond. As ever, the British would serve their hot dogs just slightly wrong, almost a parody of the American version. Now, we do a white bread roll with onions and mustard. Then, we would often use a crusty cob with salad and some chutney.

I'm not going quite that far; I'm having the sausage with onion and "made mustard" (powdered mustard made into English mustard by adding vinegar) and fried onion. But I'm having them in a sliced brown baguette, so I'm almost there.

By the way, a brief plug for Rational Mama's blog about living for a year on US rations (yes, they had them). Well worth a read.

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