The Trader Joe’s Product That’s Causing a Furor in Britain

June 27, 2017

Earlier this month, Trader Joe’s unveiled one of its newest products to hit American shelves. These “Puff Dogs” are uncured, all-beef franks ensconced in savory, flaky puff pastries that collapse easily inside your mouth.

There was a whiff of hubris in the copy that accompanied the product, as if this culinary mash-up had its genesis in the minds of Trader Joe’s recipe developers. “We don’t mean to hot dog here,” its mightily corny description reads, “but this marriage of beefy and buttery is pretty genius.”

The product’s rollout was greeted with the kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm that accompanies most other Trader Joe’s product announcements. Lifestyle media accepted Trader Joe’s claims to invention uncritically rather than digging a bit deeper to acknowledge that it's a product that resembles the sausage roll, a snack that's wildly popular in Britain. So the onus fell on some British folks on Twitter to pick up the slack in the days that followed.

The sausage roll, as these critics dutifully note, has been a staple of some British bars and households as far back as the 19th century, though variants of the snack have been around for much longer all across Europe. The traditional sausage roll is a hair different from Trader Joe’s Puff Dog; the former usually involves sausage meat, not beef. The Puff Dog has been likened, in some quarters, to adult-sized pigs in a blanket. Trader Joe's Puff Dog seems to exist at the midpoint between the two, made of franks like pigs in a blanket but with light pastry casing like its British cousin rather than a firm crescent.

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This isn’t the sausage roll’s first stateside rodeo. A similar anger erupted in 2015 when The New York Times’ beloved Cooking section debuted a recipe for sausage rolls. Again, some found it puzzling that Americans had gone so long without knowing the magic and wonder of the sausage roll, that it'd taken so long for the country to "discover" it.

Chalk this latest episode up to a non-controversy if you’d like. But it's yet again a reminder that the the language we use to talk about what we eat is pretty cardinal to thoughtful enjoyment and appreciation of food (that's in our governing manifesto—eat thoughtfully, live joyfully). It's equally important for food and lifestyle media to resist the temptation to be PR stenographers, to do more than just accept whatever so-called innovations are shilled to us without an ounce of skepticism. Long live the sausage roll.

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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.