. .the Hamburger!
When you look back a few thousands of years, you might find that the ancient Egyptians ate ground meat patties, and down through the ages ground beef has been shaped into patties and eaten all around the world under many different names. But exactly when and where the modern hamburger was born is much more difficult to pin down.
As controversial as it is, the history of the hamburger is truly a story that’s been run through the meat grinder. Legends say it began with the Mongols, who stashed scraps of beef, lamb or mutton under their saddles as they spanned the planet in their effort to conquer the known world, much as McDonald’s has done in the last half century.
The softened meat was formed into flat patties, and after enough time spent sandwiched between the asses of man and monster, the meat became tender enough to eat raw – certainly a blessing to swift-moving riders not eager to dismount.
The Russians adopted it into their own cuisine with the title”Steak Tartare,” (Tartars being their name for the Mongols). Over several years, Russian chefs adapted and developed this dish and processed it by adding chopped onions and raw eggs.
Later, as global trade picked up, seafarers brought this idea back into the port city of Hamburg, Germany, in which the Deutschvolk chose to mold it with breadcrumbs to a steak shape and cook it, making something which, outside of Hamburg, was referred to as”Hamburg steak,” a dish today most popular now, in of all places, Japan, where nearly every menu lists it under Western cuisine as”steak cooked at the Hamburg style” or”hanbagu.”
But enough fishing in Asian and European waters; let’s cut bait here. Somehow ground beef gets to America. Somehow it is put on a bun. Sadly, it does not.
While some have written that the first American hamburger (really Hamburger Steak) was served in 1834 in Delmonico’s Restaurant, New York City, this oft-quoted source isn’t based on the original Delmonico menu but instead a facsimile, which was debunked; the printed facsimile could not possibly be correct, as the printer of the purported original menu wasn’t even in business in 1834!
If a ground beef patty served between two slices of bread is a hamburger, then credit goes to Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin, who, at age 15, sold hamburgers out of his ox-drawn food stand at the Outagamie County Fair. He moved to the fair and set up a stand selling meatballs.
Business wasn’t good and he immediately realised that it was because meatballs were too difficult to eat while strolling round the fair.
In a flash of invention, he flattened the meatballs, placed them between two slices of bread and called his new creation a hamburger.
“Hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburgers hot; onions in the middle, pickle on top. Makes your lips go flippity flop.”
The town of Seymour is so certain about this claim that it calls itself the”Home of the Hamburger,” holds the record for the world’s largest hamburger, and hosts a hamburger festival every year.
To be fair, though, descendants of county fair concessionaire Frank Menches, and If If restaurateur Louis Lassen, also claim their ancestors invented the hamburger – served on bread – in 1892 and 1900, respectively.
Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, claims to have invented our favourite meal. From its website:”One day in the year 1900 a man dashed to a small New Haven luncheonette and asked for a quick meal that he could eat on the run. Louis Lassen, the establishment’s proprietor hurriedly sandwiched a grilled beef patty between two slices of bread and delivered the customer on his way, so the story goes, with America’s first hamburger.”
This claim is countered by the family of Frank and Charles Menches from Akron, Ohio, who now operate a small chain called, unsurprisingly, Menches Bros., and assert that their great-grandfather Charles and his brother Frank invented the dish while travelling in a concession circuit at fairs, race meetings, and farmers’ picnics in the Midwest.
Faced with nothing to sell at all, they purchased some ground beef, and upon frying it up, found it too bland. Then they decided to place coffee, brown sugar, and a few other household ingredients in it and consumed the sandwich. Frank didn’t really know what to call it, so when a gentleman asked him what it was, he looked up and saw the banner for the
Hamburg fair and said,”This is the hamburger.” In Frank’s 1951 obituary in The Los Angeles Times, he is acknowledged as the”inventor” of the hamburger.
But some say a hamburger really isn’t a hamburger unless it is on a bun. In that case, farmer and restaurateur Oscar Weber Bilby of Tulsa, Oklahoma, deserves credit for serving the first-known”hamburger on a bun” in 1891. According to http://www.whatscookingamerica.net, Bilby’s hamburgers were served on Mrs. Bilby’s homemade yeast buns.
From all the research that’s been done, it’s likely that the hamburger sprang up independently in lots of different places around the US. Regardless of where it was invented, most folks agree that the hamburger was popularised in 1904, and historians in McDonalds agree.
That’s when concessionaire Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas, served the hamburger in the St. Louis World’s Fair. Davis spread a mixture of ground mustard and mayonnaise on slices of bread and topped the hamburger with cucumber pickles and a slice of Bermuda onion. It allegedly created quite a sensation, and after the World’s Fair, paper reports helped spread the hamburger idea around the nation.
By the 1920s, the hamburger was available in the quick-service restaurant chain White Castle and the guy who gave the hamburger its modern appearance and sought to expand the product’s appeal through chain operations was J. Walter Anderson, a Wichita, Kansas, resident who went on to co-found the White Castle Hamburger system, the oldest continuously running burger chain.
Helped with the marketing savvy of Edgar Waldo”Billy” Ingram, White Castle reached five components by the 1920s, selling a standardised product for five cents. Later White Castle would pioneer the notion of chain advertising with the advertising tag line”Buy Celtics from the Sack.”
Wimpy’s was groundbreaking in two respects: It was the first chain that tried to court an upscale diner with 10-cent hamburgers, and it was the first to go abroad. But when its creator, Ed Gold, died in 1978, the series vanished briefly in keeping with a provision in his will that all 1,500 units shut. But you can’t keep a great hamburger down, and Wimpy’s are still with us in England today.
Throughout the 1930s, drive-in hamburger restaurants with carhops on roller skates sprang up, and that was when cheese was first used on burgers. In fact, in 1935 a Humpty-Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado, actually tried to trademark the name”cheeseburger.” And since Bob’s Big Boy introduced the first double patty burger, new varieties of burgers have been created. Today people enjoy chicken burgers, veggie burgers and quarter-pound hamburgers with many different toppings such as lettuce,
Mushrooms, cheese, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, pickles, you name it, it’s been put on a hamburger.
Backyard cookouts were a favorite pastime, but it was only when a milk-shake machine salesman of Czech origin named Ray Kroc met two brothers named McDonald, the course of burger history could be forever changed and the product would be chiselled right next to mom’s apple pie as an American icon. Maurice and Richard McDonald opened their first self-serve McDonald’s in 1948 in San Bernardino, California – as an alternative to the drive-in outlets – as a
Hot-dog and new orange-juice stand. Three decades later McDonald’s would rank with General Motors, IBM and Microsoft as symbols of American capitalistic might.
Following up on McDonald’s heels are Burger King, home of the flame-broiled burger, Wendy’s with their signature square patties and Carl’s Jr/Hardees, which, besides having the best burgers on earth, is famous for last year’s Paris Hilton ad campaign (featuring a scantily clad Hilton washing a car in a bikini, introducing the idea that eating large hamburgers is a sign of manliness), and their main fast-food burger, the Monster Thickburger, with two meat patties, three slices of cheese, six strips of bacon, 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat, a real man’s meal.
Their large hamburgers are quite popular, you see, because in order to reduce cooking and serving time, other fast food hamburger chains have thinner patties than you’d find in a restaurant. The Carl’s Jr. restaurant chain acknowledged this with the introduction in the US of the”Six Dollar Burger,” featuring a patty exactly the identical size as those served by sit-down restaurants, but at a lower price.
Whether char-grilled, flame-broiled, steamed, fried or cooked on both sides at once in double-sided griddles or slathered with ketchup, mayonnaise, cheese or even teriyaki sauce or buried under onions, avocado or mushrooms, the hamburger is into the restaurant industry as wings are to aviation. A century after its introduction, the hamburger definitely has maintained its attraction. In fact, by some sources, it is the number one food item in the world, with 60% of all sandwiches eaten being burgers!