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Collection Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting

Significance of the Hot Texas Wiener Tradition

For many Patersonians, especially those who have lived in the area for some time, Hot Texas Wieners mean home. This "meaning" works in several different dimensions. Patersonians eat a great many wieners, of course, but they do much more: they may remember the time they met their spouses at a wiener counter, they may recall regular family trips to the neighborhood grill, they may recount regular lunchtime gatherings of working people at their favorite grill near work, they may chart the genealogy of wiener businesses emerging from one another over the past seventy years, they may know the neighborhoods of Paterson by the grills that carry their name and mark them, they may argue about which grill has the best wieners and whether wieners or the places that serve them were better in the "good old days," and, if they move away, they may make a beeline for the old familiar wiener place when they come home for vacations or holidays.

The Hot Texas Wiener tradition shows one of the ways in which, faced with the demands of making a new way of life, people creatively adapt and transform the cultural traditions with which they were raised. In Paterson, a Greek food was made into the centerpiece and most important ingredient of a local culinary and occupational world, perhaps losing its specific ethnic associations — at least, in the setting of Hot Texas Wiener grills — but gaining over time a broader, more intense regional identification. Patersonians have made a new tradition using the raw materials of an old one.

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Sarah Carroll: "I think the Paterson people love hot dogs."

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