In this slim and highly readable study, food historian Kraig (Cuisines of Hidden Mexico) produces arguably the definitive work on one of America's classic foods. From the first evidence of processed meat in the Upper Paleolithic (some 20,000 years ago), Kraig traces the gilded ancestry of the lowly hot dog, finding it interwoven into cultures around the world. Ingredients differ from country to country, as do toppings: in Montreal, a hot dog isn't fully dressed until it's doused in an herb-laced tomato sauce; Venezuelans and Columbians prefer onions, mustard and crushed potato chips. Kraig's attention is focused largely on the United States, where the hand-held delicacy is firmly embedded in the national palate. An impressive inventory of regional variations showcase the food's versatility, and stories of industry giants like Oscar Meyer and the evolution of all-important casings make for entertaining reading and retelling, especially over the grill with tongs in hand. 40 color plates.