Hamburgers: how they came to be

What is that one word anyone can utter and get you salivating? A soft, toasted bun… crisp, cool lettuce… sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes… and in the middle of it all, a juicy seasoned beef patty. Hamburger. You want to go and grab one right now, don’t you?

Let’s nail down a few trivias about this amazing, all-loved fast food, shall we?

It is widely believed that the first hamburger was created in Hamburg, Germany. While the inspiration for the hamburger came from Hamburg, the sandwich concept was invented much later. During the 19th century, Hamburg became famous for their beef, from cows raised in the regional countryside. Hamburg beef was commonly chopped, seasoned and molded into patties. Since refrigeration was not yet available, fresh beef like this had to be cooked immediately. Hamburg beef came with a hefty price tag outside of its native land, and was often substituted with less expensive varieties of beef.

When groups of German immigrants began arriving in America during the 19th century, many earned their livelihood by opening restaurants in large cities like Chicago and New York. It wasn’t long before many of their menus featured an Americanized version of the Hamburg steak– beef that was minced or chopped and combined with garlic, onions, salt and pepper, then grilled or fried. In 1837, New York’s Delmonico’s restaurant offered a Hamburg steak on its first menu. At 10 cents it was the most expensive item, twice the cost of pork chops, veal cutlets and roast beef. A German restaurant at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition in 1876 served Hamburg steaks to thousands of customers.

The hamburger continued to grow in popularity throughout the following decades, only suffering with the food shortages and meat rationing of World War II. During the war, American soldiers brought hamburgers overseas with them. They were easy to make and helped to cure some of the homesickness felt by the troops. When the McDonald brothers opened their Burger Bar Drive-In in San Bernardino, California in the 1940s, the hamburger made its official debut in the suburbs. By that late 1950s, McDonald’s had sold over 100 million hamburgers. Today, they sell over 75 hamburgers per second!

Today hamburgers can be found in nearly every part of the world. Over time the concept has evolved, and meat patties are decorated with an endless variety of creative, tasty toppings. The meat patties themselves have been replaced with healthier options, including black bean, turkey and salmon burgers (though one might argue that these do not really qualify as burgers in the traditional sense). Fast food establishments have also become more adventurous with their “hamburger” patties. At MOS burger in Japan you can order a rice burger, and McDonald’s in India developed a McAloo Tikki Burger made from fried potatoes and peas topped with tomatoes, onions and spicy condiments, to satisfy the dietary restrictions and taste preferences of their Hindu diners.

Throughout the years, hamburgers have endeared themselves to a variety of food lovers. Restaurants across the country compete for who can create the biggest hamburger, and culinarians write books devoted to cross-country road trips in search of the very best burger. You can find hamburgers in tiny hole-in-the-wall diners and on the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants. In 2005, Las Vegas restaurant Fleur de Lys outdid themselves by creating a $5,000 hamburger served with champagne. Seems a bit silly to me, but it does prove the widespread appeal of this simple and tasty sandwich. Even now they continue to evolve.

Let’s finish off with another question; what’s your favorite way to eat a hamburger? -Courtesy : Priyo


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