A warm and toasty bun, crispy lettuce, sweet vine-ripened tomatoes and american cheese lightly melted with a 1/3 pound juicy fresh grassfed beef patty… Now that’s a Great American Burger! There’s no question as to why the burger is internationally recognized as “America’s favorite food.”
“National Burger Month,” which falls in May, seems like a prime opportunity to dig into the Great American Burger. Doing so, however, was surprisingly more difficult than we expected. Exactly who invented the first hamburger and when did it get lost in fast food?
An early incarnation of this world famous classic was known as “hamburger steak,” with the name said to come from the city of Hamburg in northern Germany, known for its quality beef. Hamburg steak appeared on menus at German restaurants in New York City as early as the 1870s. After a German restaurant served the dish, it started appearing on menus and in cookbooks and newspaper articles as far east as Chicago and North Dakota. Shortly thereafter, street vendors began popping up to feed the growing number of workers who lived too far from to go home for lunch or dinner.
The “hamburger steak’” was being served by these vendors without a plate and fork, so someone figured out to put a piece of bread around it. Some say the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 may have helped get the word out about this sandwich, for it was shortly after that newspapers in Nevada and Los Angeles described the hamburger as a sandwich of chopped meat with onions, and the meal started appearing all over the country. Fans later began adding cheese and other condiments to enhance the flavor.
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 because they were easy to make and helped to cure some of the homesickness felt by the troops.
But somewhere along the way we sped up the production of this american classic and corporations got greedy with profits offering the lowest quality of meat, topping, cheese and sauce ingredients. Many of which were caught using fillers such as wheat in their “beef patties” to save cost. Some studies have shown that popular fast food chains (not to be named) offered meat with more than 80% “filler.”
“Historically, the hamburger demographic has consisted of eaters who value affordability and portability over quality: laborers, travelers, children, poor people, others who just needed inexpensive, salty calories. Hamburger patties were ground from less-than-prime beef, and the seasonings and toppings were meant to impart flavor to inherently wan meat. Burgers were unapologetically lowbrow food meant for common people, and that was OK. Not everything has to be prime rib. Fast food tasted good when you ate it. You felt bad afterward. It didn’t immediately kill you. It was the gustatory equivalent of a one-night stand, at once sordid and euphoric.” Fast forward twenty years and “people now are more than happy to eat fast-food hamburgers for dinner as long as the ground beef is sustainably raised and hormone-free.”Justin Peters – Slate
“Burger Boss is bringing back the great American burger that was lost in fast food with honest ingredients and the freedom to boss your burger.” – Mo Farha, Founder and CEO