Please, “Heinie,” Won’t you warm my wiener, ’cause he really don’t taste right cold

October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Thanks, Bo Carter. May your wiener stay forever warm.

The Wienerwurst Man as Much a Mystery as Are the Ingredients of the Delicacy He Dispenses — Extent of His Trade.

When day merges into night the fakirs of day, as if they were a race of ephemera, disappear or are metamorphosed and an entirely new set of characters are found scattered along the streets downtown. They come out when the electric lights begin to buzz and sputter just like the storms of insects which besiege the white globes and fall to the sidewalk, where they crackle under the feet of the pedestrian. Conspicuous among these people of the night is the wiener wurst man. He is invariably German, and as much a mystery as are the ingredients of the delicacy he dispenses. He is at times a stationary institution, though more often peripatetic, for he cannot long occupy any corner without attracting rivals to his place to destroy his business. The traveler by night runs across him in all kinds of dark places, tramping through dark alleys with the light under his can flashing on the stones or the walls on either side.

Then, again, he is found posted at a corner with his steaming can upon his big basket and ever and anon giving vent to a lugubrious cry, “Hot veeny,” or perhaps he’ll vary it by rasping out “Hot veeny v-e-r-r-r-s-t,” with a sound as though he was tearing the shirt off his back or running his hand down the movable slats of a window shutter. He answers indifferently to the name “Chorgh” or “Owgoost,” or anything else bestowed upon him by his customers in their humor, and he’ll say in reply to a question as to his price, “one,” or maybe “two f’r-r-r-r a niggle.” When the lucre is forthcoming he opens his can with his knife, dips his fork down through a cloud of steam and draws forth the ruddy and odorous sausage red hot. Then he shuts the can, pries open the lid of his big oval basket and whips out two slices of bread and a square bottle. With his knife he spreads out some horseradish on one of the slices, deposits thereon the wurst and then slaps on top of that the other slice of bread and hands it over, a kind of a sandwich, with the heads of the wurst sticking out like amputated fingers and the horseradish oozing out all around under the pressure. It is eaten just like a sandwich, with much spluttering, because it is very hot, but it is a delicious morsel to the man who is filled up with beer or something stronger. He sells, perhaps, 100, in a night, providing the hoodlums don’t kick over his hand or steal it from him, or fill it up with beer or play some other pranks upon him. Where he obtains his wurst no one knows. His stock for a night costs him maybe 10 or 15 cents, and his sales when business is good may net him one dollar. When sold out, he just turns off the little jet of gasoline burning under his can, thrusts his arm through the basket handle and and boards an owl car with one wurst as a kind of offering to the driver in lieu of his fare. Occasionally the gasoline tank on his can explodes and he loses all his stock, but a dollar or so will fit him out again all right. His life is not a happy one, for his customers are mostly gay young men who are “out for a time,” and they guy him or take his goods and refuse to pay, or otherwise treat him badly. He is uncomplaining, however, and he cherishes no ill will towards those who pester him.

But one thing ruffles his temper, and that is to speak disparagingly of his wurst. When a purchaser, holding out a nickel, remarks, “give me some dog,” a shade of sadness passes over his face. When he has a rush he can turn out the wurst as rapidly as cook flips pancakes, and his face is a perfect picture of enjoyment as he watches a crowd around burying their faces in their wurst and rolling the hot morsels in their mouths to prevent their being burnt. He pays tribute to the policeman on his beat and to the various night barkeepers. From the former he receives protection when he don’t particularly need it, for the policeman isn’t around when the gang bothers him. From the barkeeper he receives a glass of beer in exchange for a wurst and in the winter is allowed to warm himself at the stove.  He makes his rounds two and three times in a night, and can be heard calling out his wurst in the darkness where he can’t be seen. He is never visible in the daytime; he sleeps until night, and then he’s out with his can and his basket, and his cry, “hot Veeny” or “Veeny ver-r-r-r-s-t. ”

St. Louis Globe Democrat, August 1887.


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