Antecedents

Thought of by many as the quintessential American food, the hamburger owes its origins to a popular way of eating steak in Germany. The Hamburg Steak consists of minced or ground beef and is usually served with onions and smothered in gravy. Except for the style of meat and its patty shape, the Hamburg Steak bears little resemblance to the American marvel that dominates many fast food restaurants and diners. The Hamburg steak was a popular choice for trans-Atlantic voyages where the salted beef steak offered good shelf life, was inexpensive and required little preparation. The simplicity of this steak is shown in a 19th century cookbook: “Pound a slice of round steak enough to break the fibre. Fry two or three onions, minced fine, in butter until slightly browned. Spread the onions over the meat, fold the ends of the meat together, and pound again, to keep the onions in the middle. Broil two or three minutes. Spread with butter, salt, and pepper”.

With endless variations and extreme concoctions it is no wonder that the hamburger has come to be a worldwide icon of America. After all it embodies diversity and innovation, two things that America prides itself on.

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1 Farmer, Fannie Boston Cooking School Cook Book, 178

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