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Food History 101: The Burger

on October 30, 2017
You might think of the burger as simply an American staple, but to do so would be to reduce a fundamental human dining experience to much less than its international roots deserve. Like many of the shared culinary commodities consumed across the nation, the invention of the burger is debated and scattered across the globe. Vegetarian cuisines and gluten restrictions have sort of revolutionized what we all imagine when we hear the word “burger,” so let’s establish terms. For all intents and purposes, when we talk about burgers, we’re talking about a patty of ground meat, usually beef. Sorry bean, soy, and jackfruit enthusiasts – this blog is not your history. Roasted and Toasted One of the earliest examples of the hamburger can be found in “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy,” by Hannah Glasse. The “Hamburgh Sausage” recipe suggests it be served “roasted with toasted bread under it” in 1758. Similar menu items appeared around Europe and North America throughout the 1800’s. As for the official American dish, accounts vary greatly regarding its conception. Fair Burgers in the 1800’s Though different than the classic beef burger, an account as old as 1885 provides the claim that Charles Nagreen sold a meatball between bread at a fair in Wisconsin. He was reportedly 15 years old when selling pork sandwiches at the fair and naming them for the Hamburg Steak locals were already familiar with. Nagreen is now known as “Hamburger Charlie.” Also in 1885, at another fair in another county and state, Frank and Charles Menches are said to have sold ground beef sandwiches in Hamburg, New York. They supposedly resorted to the chopped-beef sandwiches, instead. Other claims exist from the 1800’s as to the burger’s invention in America, but they tend to follow a similar pattern. A Burger by Any Other Name… In New Haven, Connecticut, during the year 1900, a lunch wagon called Louis’ Lunch supposedly sold the first Hamburger and steak sandwich. Even this claim has its own divisive disputes making the truth unclear. One story alleges that when a customer ordered a quick, hot meal and Louis was out of steaks, he made a patty out of beef trimmings and served it as a sandwich. Another claim is that the dish had no formal name until “rowdy sailors from Hamburg” named the sandwich after themselves. In the early 1900’s, many franchise restaurants and big businesses rushed to secure the position of top burger joint. In an effort to re-brand the burger to satisfy sentiments in the U.S. at the time, many businesses referred to the dish as “Salisbury Steak.” As if all of that history, and all of those disputes, aren’t enough, the history behind the “cheeseburger” is a whole other messy bag of tall tales. For now, let’s just say that the cheeseburger was the natural next half-step in the evolution of the “Hamburg Steak Sandwich.” We can’t say for sure which, if any, of these accounts are the actual origins of the burger, but we do know one thing. If you’re looking to get an authentic burger, made from the best ingredients and just to your liking, Atlas Steakhouse should be your first choice when in our area. As a purveyor of premium steak and international fare of all kinds, we know just what your burger needs. Stop by for dinner or brunch soon and get the best burger in Brooklyn!
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