History of Favorite American Food Hamburger Part 1

About the history of the favorite American food hamburger, information about the nutritional value and more.



The hamburger originated on the Russian steppes, where medieval Tartars ate raw meat scraped and shredded with a dull knife and seasoned with salt, pepper, and onion juice. German sailors picked up the delicacy at the Baltic ports and took the recipe back to their home base at Hamburg. Finicky Hamburgers, not accustomed to eating their meat raw like savages, took some of the red out of their tartar steak by broiling the outside; thus the hamburg steak was born.

German immigrants brought the hamburg steak to American in the 19th century, and in 1900 Louis Lassen introduced the American hamburg steak at his lunch wagon in New Haven, Conn., by adding the inspiration of England's 4th Earl of Sandwich--two pieces of bread. When at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis in 1904, a harried cook slapped broiled beef patties between buns and served them to a hungry crowd, the hamburg steak American-style had truly arrived. About this same time, American adopted the hamburg steak without the bun, or Salisbury steak, which got its name from J.H. Salisbury, a famous English doctor who prescribed it to his patients.

The great fair in St. Louis also introduced iced tea and the ice cream cone, harbingers of things to come now that Henry Ford had put the country on wheels and Americans were picking up the habit of eating on the run. At first the hamburger steak, or simply the hamburger, was a bastard child, made up of beef scraps of bad cuts that couldn't be used for anything else. But before long the voracious public demand brought whole cows under the bun. Hamburger stands went up all around the country, and a side industry of condiments--ketchup (originally from Malaysia) and relish--grew and prospered.

The hamburger's place in American life and history wasn't assured, however, until 1954, when a milk--shake--mixer salesman named Ray Kroc met the McDonald brothers, Maurice and Richard, who operated a thriving assembly-line hamburger stand between two golden arches in San Bernardino, the booming California terminus of the intercontinental Route 66. Kroc had long seen the potential of fast-food joints in general and the hamburger in particular, because they provided a basic menu that lent itself to step-by-step control. Therefore, it was only natural that the streamlined McDonald brothers' operation fascinated him. Without ado, he made a deal with them to be their franchise salesman.

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