Thursday, January 9, 2014

From the Golden Arches

So, as my son was eating his once a month Happy Meal, he asked me where hamburgers came from and to be honest, I didn't know.  I thought that there is a place in Germany named Hamburg and it was thought of at one time that frankfurters came from the town of Frankfurt, so perhaps hamburgers came from the town of Hamburg.  But, having some remedial knowledge of other cuisines and cultures, I find it highly unlikely that a town in Germany was the only place in the world where someone had the idea of making a ground meat patty and placing it between two layers of bread.  However, what we call a "hamburger", being ground beef and placed on a yeast risen bread bun, may only come from a culture that A: has cows as one of their food sources and B: has access and use of yeast to rise their bread.  These two factors rule out the possibility of Asia and Africa as being sources of the origin. I also refuse to believe that much of anything traditional such as a hamburger, was really invented in America, like ice tea...

Still, most places, including the Library of Congress, do believe that a man in Connecticut in 1900 was out of steaks at his shop and instead stuck the ground up pieces and trimmings of his steaks together to create a hamburger. While that may be the first time this meat item had shown up in America, it isn't the first time it was ever invented.  (In fact, like the creation of Buffalo Wings, I doubt the above claim.)  Although a Governor in Oklahoma, claimed that the first hamburger on a bun was eaten in Tulsa in 1881.

But what about other parts of this meal?  What about French Fries?  Well, let's get one claim out of the way that it either was invented in France or Belgium.  Both countries claim to have invented it.  The fact we know, is that potatoes are native to Central America and therefore, did not show up anywhere else in the world until after 1735.  What is interesting though, is that Spain, would have been the first European country to get the potatoes and therefore could have had the ability to invent the French Fry.  It wasn't until Thomas Jefferson was at a dinner at the White House, where he was served a dish called French Fries, which meant "potatoes served in a French manner".  This part makes sense because it was the French who helped America during the Revolutionary War, so of course it would have been France who had had close relations with America and therefore if any cook from a country would have delivered fried potatoes first, it would have been France.

So, we doing alright?  Is your mouth watering yet?

Now, while ketchup seems to always be paired with hamburgers and fries, remember this: tomatoes are native of the Americas also, so no other place could have tomatoes before the 1730's as well, like potatoes. In fact, the earliest mention of tomato ketchup, was in 1801.  Things resembling ketchup, without the tomatoes, had existed in India and China as early as the 1600's, but the tomatoes are New World products and this means that ketchup is as well.

I think the last thing that goes well with hamburgers, may have been the oldest one yet.  Mustard, is historically connected with the ancient Romans, who created a spread grinding mustard seeds with grape juice vinegar and then cooking it to give it a musty taste.  A recipe has survived from the 4th century.  It is amazing that we still use the same item today on our food.


No comments:

Post a Comment