The Hamburger, a brief history of United States' favorite sandwich
June 8, 2016
Among common mythology regarding the origins of the hamburger is the misconception that it was invented in Hamburg, Germany. In the 19th century, Hamburg was famous for its beef, which was expensive because the were no refrigerators and it had to be cooked immediately.
With the arrival of germans to the US, hey started making a living, in restaurants where they soon began to sell the American version of the Hamburg Steak, beef that was minced or chopped and combined with garlic, onions, salt and pepper, then grilled or fried.
In the 1800s, a large population of the US found jobs in factories and industries. Steam-powered factories included night shifts and small food carts offered coffee and small meals. When those carts came with gas powered grills, the menu included the Hamburg steak, but it was very difficult to eat while standing and in a hurry to get back to work.
Then came the breakthrough. When someone put to slices of bread between the beef on the Hamburg Steak, the hamburger sandwich was born. At the start of the new century, the hamburger sandwich was already an American trademark. By 1921 -5 years after the first Copa America was played down in south America, the first fast food hamburger establishment, White Castle, in Wichita, Kansas, offered a small hamburger for 5 cents. At that time, road diners and soda shops began to serve hamburgers, with french fries and milkshakes.
The hamburger popularity kept rising and was only stopped during WW II's meat rationing. Even soldiers took hamburgers with them where they went to fight in Europe. By that decade, McDonald's opened a drive-in in San Bernardino, California and by the 50's the company had sold 100 million burgers.
Over time, the idea evolved, toppings were creatively added, different kind of bread and meat were used. The range of available burgers was enormous, each restaurant or region created its own offer trying to be unique. The dish has become healthier too with chicken, turkey or salmon meat. We could discuss if those could qualify as burgers or sandwiches too.
The burger was not just a fast food business. Chains like Wendy's, Burger King or McDonald's drive millions of people to their restaurants but the trend now is moving toward specialized restaurants, some of them even gourmet, while other resemble the old soda shops or dine-ins.