n The Beginning…
. .the Hamburger!
If you look back a few centuries, you’ll find that the ancient Egyptians ate ground meat patties, and down through the ages ground meat has been shaped into patties and eaten all over the world under many different names. But exactly when and where the modern hamburger was born is much harder to pin down. Several folks over in the US – from New Haven, Connecticut, to Tulsa, Oklahoma – confidently claim their ancestors invented it.
As controversial as it is, the history of the hamburger is truly a story that has been run through the meat grinder. Legends say it began with the Mongols, who stashed bits 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 keen to dismount.
When Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, and his hordes invaded Moscow, they naturally brought their unique dietary ground meat with them. The Russians adopted it in their own cuisine with the title”Steak Tartare,” (Tartars being their name for the Mongols). Over many years, Russian chefs adapted and developed this dish and refined it by adding chopped onions and raw eggs.
Later, as international trade picked up, seafarers brought this idea back to 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 almost every menu lists it under Western cuisine as”steak cooked in the Hamburg style” or”hanbagu.”
But enough fishing in European and Asian waters; let’s cut bait here. Somehow it is put on a bun. But by whom? Surely, the historical record should become clearer once we land on American shores. Sadly, it does not.
Though some have written that the first American hamburger (really Hamburger Steak) was served in 1834 at Delmonico’s Restaurant, New York City, this oft-quoted source is not based on the first Delmonico menu but instead a facsimile, which was debunked; the published 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 pieces of bread is a hamburger, then charge 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.
Business was not good and he quickly realised that it was since meatballs were too difficult to eat while strolling around the fair.
In a flash of innovation, he flattened the meatballs, put them between two slices of bread and called his new creation a hamburger.
“Hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburgers hot; onions in the center, 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 biggest hamburger, and hosts a hamburger festival each year.
To be fair, however, 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 favorite meal. From its website:”One day in the year 1900 a man dashed to a small New Haven luncheonette and asked for a fast meal that he could eat on the run. Louis Lassen, the establishment’s owner, hurriedly sandwiched a grilled beef patty between two slices of bread and delivered the customer on his way, so the story goeswith 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, not surprisingly, Menches Bros., and claim that their great-grandfather Charles and his brother Frank invented the dish when travelling in a concession circuit in fairs, race meetings, and farmers’ picnics in the Midwest.
Equipped with nothing to sell in any way, they purchased some ground beef, and upon frying it up, found it too bland. Then they decided to place coffee, brown sugar, and some other household ingredients inside and consumed the sandwich. Frank did not 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’s recognized as the”inventor” of the hamburger.
However, some say a hamburger really isn’t a hamburger unless it is on a bun. According to http://www.whatscookingamerica.net, Bilby’s hamburgers were served on Mrs. Bilby’s homemade yeast buns.
From all of the research that has been done, it is probable that the hamburger sprang up independently in a lot of different places around the usa. Irrespective of where it was invented, most folks agree that the hamburger was popularised in 1904, and historians at McDonalds agree.
That’s when concessionaire Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas, served the hamburger in the St. Louis World’s Fair. Davis spread a combination of ground mustard and mayonnaise on slices of bread and topped the burger with cucumber pickles and a slice of Bermuda onion. It allegedly created quite a sensation, and after the World’s Fair, newspaper 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 man who gave the hamburger its contemporary appearance and sought to expand the product’s appeal through string 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 from the 1920s, selling a standardised product for five cents. Later White Castle would pioneer the concept 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 attempted to court an upscale diner with 10-cent hamburgers, and it was the first to go overseas. 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 good burger down, and Wimpy’s are still with us in England today.
Through the 1930s, drive-in hamburger restaurants with carhops on roller skates popped up, and that was when cheese was first used on burgers. In fact, in 1935 a Humpty-Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado, really tried to trademark the name”cheeseburger.” And since Bob’s Big Boy introduced the first double patty burger, new varieties of burgers have been produced. 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 called McDonald, that the course of burger history would be permanently changed and the product could 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 sockets – as a
Hot-dog and new orange-juice stand.
Following up on McDonald’s heels are Burger King, home of the flame-broiled hamburger, Wendy’s with their signature square patties and Carl’s Jr/Hardees, which, besides having the best burgers on earth, is famed 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 would find in a restaurant.
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 concealed under onions, avocado or mushrooms, the hamburger is into the restaurant industry as wings are to aviation. A century after its debut, the hamburger definitely has maintained its own attraction. In fact, by some sources, it is the number one food item in the world, with 60% of all sandwiches eaten being hamburgers!