In Paterson, N.J., a hot dog is a way of life … the Hot Texas Wiener, to be exact. Each year, the members of the many cultural communities populating this multicultural, multilingual city eat hundreds of thousands of deep-fried beef hot dogs, topped with spicy mustard, chopped onions and a distinctive chili sauce. The origins of this "relished" town staple can be traced to 1924 and an "old Greek gentleman" who owned a hot dog stand in downtown Paterson. The origins of its moniker is lesser known however. Perhaps the gentleman designated his food find as a Hot Texas Wiener because of the spicy chili sauce and the image the Southern state evokes--cowboys, Latino flair, the rugged West. What evolved was more than a regional food favorite—it has become an occupational tradition.
In 1994, Timothy Lloyd, executive director of the American Folklore Society, documented the Hot Texas Wiener tradition for the Working in Paterson Folklife Project of the Library's American Folklife Center. Brought to you as part of the Library's American Memory collections, "Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting," presents interview excerpts and photographs from the four-month study of occupational culture in Paterson, N.J.