How hamburger began


To begin somewhere near the happy-ever-after-ending (or continuing), we begin with a green paperback book in Nepali with Nepali recipes that included hamburgers in them.

It starts with asking you to get lots of ham, which of course is wrong. Hamburgers, which began their journey nearly a millennium ago with the Mongols, didn’t use ham. You can have chicken burgers, lamb burgers and even vegetarian burgers, but I am sorry ham is out.

Mongol riders would carry raw meat under their saddle, which would be tenderised, ground and eaten raw. The Mongols called Tartars invaded Russia and gave them steak tartare, which is a steak that went a little near a flame, but not so you’d notice.

This minced steak made its way down into Germany and at the German port of Hamburg, it was transformed in its worldwide journeying by converts to a hamburger steak. In Germany, there is still a Hamburg Rundstick or ground meat sandwich. In America, however, people happily ate the minced cooked steak until the early 19th century and a confusion of claims as to who invented or assembled the first hamburger bread.

One claim has a gentleman called Louis Lassen creating a broiled meat patty between two pieces of white toast for busy office workers in New Haven, Connecticut. But historians have traced the hamburger to the 1904 St Louis Fair and the food vendor Fletcher Davis (1864-1941), who is also known as Old Dave and Uncle Fletch.

Another twist — Uncle Fletch didn’t come from St Louis; he was from Athens, Texas and he started selling meat patties between slices or brad at his shop ‘Old Dave’s Hamburger Stand’, which he then took to the St Louis Fair.

During the war with Germany, hamburgers became Salisbury steak. But after the war, the Salisbury steak and hamburger steak parted ways with the Salisbury steak containing eggs, breadcrumbs and other seasoning topped with gravy. And the hamburger remained the hamburger — a simple ground meat patty.

Another claimant to assembling the hamburger was Oscar Weber Bilby, who served the patty between a sliced bun in 1891 in the state of Oklahoma. As recently as 1995, Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma proclaimed, “Whereas, although someone in Athens, in the 1860’s, may have place cooked ground beef between two slices of bread, this minor accomplishment can in no way be regarded as a hamburger which comes in a bun accompanied by such delights as pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, cheese and, in some cases, special sauce... Whereas, the first true hamburger on a bun, as meticulous research shows, was created and consumed in Tulsa in 1891 and was only copied for resale at the St Louis World’s Fair, a full 13 years after that momentous and history-making occasion:”

But Uncle Fletch’s claim was ratified in The Texas State Legislature in November 2006. Wherever it began, the hamburger took off in 1940 when two brothers opened a tiny hamburger restaurant on a street corner in San Bernardino, Los Angeles. They were Dick and Maurice McDonalds. Two things happened in quick succession — Dick and Maurice McDonald hired low paid teenagers to cook in the restaurant and customers had to queue for their food which they ate out of cardboard cartons. The prices were reduced and so fast food began.

In 1990 McDonalds opened a restaurant in Moscow at which point it was America’s biggest employer of unskilled labour and has over 10,000 branches in around 50 countries.

I am dreaming of hamburgers. Because of my diet I can’t eat them. But soon...