June 22, 2016
The Family Food
by Ryan Harrington
Argumentative literary estates—spatting spouses, offensive offspring, and exciteable executors—are as common in our publishing landscape as tortoise shell glasses and the disappearance of bookstores. So it’s nice to hear that two descendants of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog empire are being totally chill about the fact that they are both releasing competing books about the iconic frankfurtier this summer.
The cousin-authors Lloyd Handwerker and William Handwerker are the grandsons of famous Nathan (Handwerker), whose eponymous hot dog stand celebrates the 100 Year Anniversary of its Coney Island debut this summer.
It helps matters that the authors weren’t particularly close growing up, so Famous Nathan: A Family Saga of Coney Island, the American Dream, and the Search for the Perfect Hot Dog (by Lloyd) and Nathan’s Famous: The First 100 Years, An Unauthorized View of America’s Favorite Frankfurter Company (by William), bring different experiences to the story. They’ve also endeavored to take very different approaches, as the New York Post’s Larry Getlen reports:
While the topics the cousins cover overlap, the difference in their approaches is vast. William’s book has a just-the-facts vibe and a clear business orientation. His book includes “Frank Lesson” breakout boxes throughout, with advice like, “Always differentiate yourself from your competitors.”
Lloyd spends far more time on the dramatic aspects of Nathan’s early life in Poland, his immigrant journey to America and the details behind his rise to becoming a successful American business owner.
Though the Handwerker family sold the business in 1987, the boys insist that between the time that Nathan’s brood spent behind the counter at the storied hot dog stand, and the extensive records that the patriarch left behind—there may be many more books to write.
And mark you calendar for the sporting event of the year when Matt Stonie attempts to defend his 2015 title against world-record-holder Joey Chestnut in the annual 4th of July hot dog eating contest—centennial edition!
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.