A Brief History Of Baseball Food

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With today being the opening day of the 2011 baseball season, we've been thinking about all the things that to look forward to from now until the World Series. Namely lots of warm beer and ballpark food.

Sure there are lots of stadiums who are going progressively more haute with their cuisine from the Dungeness crab cakes at AT&T Park in San Francisco to the slow-cooked pork tacos with tomatillo-chipotle salsa at Citi Field in NYC, but we also have a nostalgic hunger for the traditional foods of summer.

In his book Baseball is America: Origins and History: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Victor Baltov and his son argue that baseball serves as a metaphor for America's historical trajectory. Baseball food—hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack, and cotton candy—is an essential part of the baseball experience. And we agree.

As the tale goes, hot dogs got their name in 1901 at the Polo Grounds. Tad Dorgan, a cartoonist for New York Journal, wrote "Hot dog!" to describe vendor cries of "Get your dachshund sausages while they're red hot!" While that story is contested by some wiener historians and no copy of this famed cartoon has ever surfaced, we like the story. And are really glad to not be walking around having to utter the phrase "dachshund sausages."

Unlike hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack connect to the world of baseball only tangentially. At the Chicago World's Fair, "Candied Popcorn and Peanuts" preceded "Cracker Jack." During the Dead Ball era, Cracker Jack proved a fan favorite, especially once "Take Me Out to the Ballpark" emerged in 1908. Similarly, cotton candy first appeared at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. Associated with carnivals and midways, cotton candy now holds a special place in the hearts of many baseball enthusiasts.

What's your favorite stadium food, old or new? Let us know in the comments