Burgers are without a doubt one of the most satisfying forms of comfort food. Devouring a well cooked hamburger is a quasi religious experience, a ritual of sorts. Observe peoples’ faces as they chomp down on a perfectly fluffy bun that holds within it a juicy patty slathered in molten cheese and their expressions are ones of pure unadulterated bliss. The sight is truly something to behold!
The humble burger has been around for decades having been made popular by the fast food industry during the second half of the twentieth century. According to McDonald’s, the chain sells an incredible 75 burgers every minute—try and count how many burgers that is in a day! While fast food chains continue to churn out millions of carbon copy patties, burgers are also a culinary staple on the menus of many highly respected restaurants, reinforcing the well-known fact that burgers rule the roost when it comes to the perfect all-in-one meal.
The origins of the hamburger are, however, highly disputed. While we know that the Americans made the hamburger what is is today, the concept of the patty is said to have come from, yes you guessed it, Hamburg! A number of American culinary classics have immigrant roots: the original hamburger pattie is said to have been inspired by German immigrants who ate salted mince beef steaks while sailing on the Hamburg-American Line in the 1840s.
With the passing of time the infamous Hamburg Steak evolved and additions like the burger bun were added. A varying version on the hamburger origin myth claims that in 1885, the Menches, two brothers who had a sausage stand at a fair in New York, are said to have run out of pork and to have invented the hamburger after being forced to think fast and serve seasoned ground-beef sandwiches as an alternative. In yet another story, 15 year old Charlie Nagreen, is said to have been the first to have served a similar sandwich at another fair in Seymour, Wisconsin. The story goes that the resourceful young man recognised his saucy meatballs weren’t selling, as they were difficult for fair goers to eat on the go, so he squashed them between two pieces of bread et voilà: the hamburger was born!
Whatever the truth, these savoury treats soon began to pop up on menus everywhere. They eventually got their opportunity to shine with the opening of White Castle, the world’s first burger chain, in 1916. This simple staple with humble beginnings quickly became the ultimate recipe for commercial success with millions of burgers eaten around the world every day. Its evolution has seen a variety of ingredients become staple add-ons including, but not limited to, tangy cheeses, sour pickles, gooey sauces, caramelized onions, crispy bacon, crunchy lettuce and peppery jalapeños. Whatever the topping, whatever the twist, hamburgers whether classic or not, are not going out of fashion any time soon!