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History of the Hamburger

When you look into the history of hamburgers in the U.S., you’ll find sources proclaiming the inventor to be Louis Lassen, “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen, or the Menches Brothers.

The history of the hamburger is truly a story that has been run through the meat grinder. Some sources say it began with the Mongols, who stashed raw beef under their saddles as they waged their campaign to conquer the known world. After time spent sandwiched between the asses of man and beast, the beef became tender enough to eat raw certainly a boon to swift-moving riders not keen to dismount.

It is said, then, that the Mongols, under Kublai Khan later brought it to Russia, which turned it into the dish we know as steak tartare.

Several years later, as global trade picked up, seafarers brought this idea back to the port city of Hamburg, Germany, where the Deutschvolk decided to mold it into a steak shape and add heat to the equation, making something that, outside of Hamburg, was referred to as “Hamburg steak.”

Of course, as it’s been pointed out on the comments on this site and in John T. Edge’s book Hamburgers & Fries, that’s wishful thinking. As Mr. Edge writes, “The history of proletarian dishes like hamburgers is rarely explained by a linear progression of events.”

But enough fishing in European and Asian waters; let’s cut bait here. Somehow ground beef gets to America. Somehow it’s put on a bun. But by whom? Surely the historical record becomes more clear once we cross to these shores.

It doesn’t. There are currently three major claims staked on the confusing and contradictory map of American hamburger history. Each has its adherents and detractors. They are… read more >

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