Foodie Folklore: Josh Chetwynd's 'How the Hot Dog Found its Bun'

Hot dog over white background. Image from

Josh Chetwynd provides lively stories of chance featuring some of the most well-known foods, snacks and products in modern history. These stories are inspiration for the seekers of chance and wranglers of success.

How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun: Accidental Discoveries and Unexpected Inspirations That Shape What We Eat and Drink

Publisher: Globe Pequot
Length: 163 pages
Author: Josh Chetwynd
Price: $14.95
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2012-05
“What makes serendipity so fascinating is the combination of the lucky find and the smarts…As Albert Einstein once said about discovery: “The really valuable factor is intuition…There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.” -- Josh Chetwynd

Hard work pays off. This truism often eclipses the possibility of chance in individual success stories, and in the stories of successful products. But what is the role of chance? Stories of how chance played a role in the lives of successful individuals are plenty. What about products? What if your favorite foods are invented by accident? Author Josh Chetwynd has written the book that exposes just how much chance has been involved in the creation of some of the most popular foods and food brands in America and the world.

How the Hot Dog Found its Bun is an encyclopedia of accidental food discovery. Chetwynd provides dozens of stories about the creation of popular foods such as: potato chips, doughnuts, Buffalo wings, and such brands as: Coca-Cola, Kool-Aid, Bisquick and Nutella. It also provides stories of kitchen staples, appliances, and other common products.

A common theme is the role of the American military in the changes to our food. It's widely known that several products have been created with the purpose of serving the US military, and were later adopted by the general American public. How the Hot Dog Found its Bun provides new narratives of products that are accidentally created either for wives of military soldiers or via shortages.

What is also learned is just how much perception can dictate who uses a product and for what purpose. While providing several interesting stories of accidental product creations that range from the anecdotal to the historic, Chetwynd’s latest offering doubles as a reminder of the power of product evolution. Next New Year’s Eve, when that bottle of champagne is being chilled, consider that in the 1600s, the bubbly drink was thought to have mystical powers. The power of champagne was thought to be so impenetrable that it was considered to be devilish, and the official drink of orgies. Its’ past folklore includes workers who would wear iron masks and freakish accidents involving those who would imbibe in the mystery drink.

In the '20s, long before PEZ candy and its cartoonish dispensers was targeted at children, it was marketed by placing seductive women in ads. At the time, PEZ was sold as an anti-smoking mint of sophisticates and international trendsetters. The dispenser (later to be stylized) was invented when soldiers of WWII (a specific recurring event in the book) came home with a nicotine addiction and needed a quick preventive fix. It's unknown if PEZ actually help curb nicotine cravings. Eventually, PEZ was sold to help lose weight. Later, the dispenser was touted as an aid to fighting infections, as one’s hand didn’t have to touch the candy.

Currently, PEZ dispensers are a collector’s item, known to mark various periods in American history, and help to romanticize and time stamp the youth of generations passed. Despite its’ decades-long history, this book explains that PEZ has ironically not been marketed as candy as much as it has been sold as a solution, of some sort.

“…there are times when you actually know exactly what you want to create but struggle with how to get there. When happenstance allows you to find that missing link, these moments have been dubbed by scientist and author Royston M. Roberts as pseudoserendipity.” Ultimately, Chetwynd’s stories give the reader the notion that while food items do have carefully calculated brands, a lot of them weren't created that way. These stories are also a reminder that accidents, to some extent, are inevitable in the creation of something long-lasting.

This debatable idea of the inevitability of chance is the larger substantive lesson that Chetwynd provides in How the Hot Dog Found Its Bun. He offers that chance, although random, can still be somewhat studied and observed as a matter of science. While exposing some myths, Chetwynd doesn’t try to completely spoil the notions of chance and mystery.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.