The hamburger

A hamburger is a minced beef patty on a roll and served with lettuce (I never do since the idea of wet, bloody lettuce doesn’t appeal to me), sliced or deep fried onions and chips.

I hate making chips so I would make oven baked potatoes – in whatever form takes my fancy on that particular day, sliced tomatoes because I like them and cheese for those that want it. I like a good Ementahler or Brie. Hearty red wine would be great but my kids love beer – and since I have recently tasted the Koelsch of Cologne, I could have one of those.

The Tatars were the first people to shred beef and later the Mongols (of Genghis Kahn fame) carried beef in their saddle bags. They lived on their horses which made eating the raw softened meat on horseback very convenient. Later they took it to Russia and later Kublai Khan and his men were said to have taken it to the port of Hamburg. The Hamburg steak was born from this. Another version of the origin of the hamburger would then be the one where Otto Kuasw made his own hamburgers in 1981 in Hamburg, Germany. He made a thin patty of minced beef and fried it in a light batter, serving it with a fried egg. I have my doubts about this and I have never read about this phenomena in any of their cook books – and I have read some! Frankly, they have such a rich variety of traditional sausages to use as ‘fast food’ that I find it difficult to believe that in 1981 they would have wanted to make a hamburger at all!

Back to the United States since today is, after all, their day – the fourth of July commemorates the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed – relief  and joy for all Americans since the War of Independence that had started in Lexington, Massachusetts. Today it is celebrated in true American style and there is a lot of noise. Fireworks and processions and drums and even banquets are held, but ask any true American and he/she will tell you that the barbecue and the hamburger are the things one remembers. I remember having a 4th of July party in Monaco with my friend Alan years ago. We had hamburgers and little else!!!  We expected the poached salmon or the chicken or any one of the glorious dishes they do serve as well – but no! Hamburgers and corn on the cob done in an apartment on the balcony! There are three main contenders to the position of “First Maker of Hamburger” – either Louis Lassen, Charlie Nagreen or Frank and Charles Menches. There is also a Texan, Fletch ‘old Dave’ Davis.
Charles Nagreen created his first hamburger when his meatballs flopped and his meatball business became a hamburger business in 1885. In exactly the same year the Menches brothers who, traveling from fair to fair, whilst selling their sausage patty sandwiches found that the heat spoilt the pork and they had to turn to beef. Apparently this, too, was a hamburger. Finally we find one Louis Lassen who creates a “burger” for a lunch in 1890 which he actually called a burger and therefore it is still called a “burger”. Since his is the most credible story, I will nominate him the father of the burger on this site.

The first burger joint? The Wimpy in 1930, I think.

I make a very simple version of the real thing:

  1. One fillet of beef, minced to the consistency you like – remember it’s fillet!
  2. Depending on the size of the fillet,
  3. A handful or more of fresh chopped parsley
  4. A handful of finely chopped onions
  5. Rind of one lemon – on a large fillet, I use two lemons
  6. Salt
  7. Pepper – always black, either cracked our ground

Mix everything together well to form firm patties, salt and pepper to taste. Melt a generous portion of olive oil and salted clarified butter together and cook patties quickly in a pan on high heat. I like a medium rare hamburger like Lisa and Richard, but Stefan and Mark like the rare/bleu ones. Sometimes they go on a grill outside and we make quite a few with guests making up their own burgers. I loathe traditional hamburger rolls since they are sweet and cost a fortune here, so I use locally produced rolls. Once I asked Mark to bake rolls for me but they were too crunchy for a hamburger. Warning: if you add too many onions or too much parsley to this recipe you may have a crumbly patty. To prevent this from happening you would have to take one egg and a handful of breadcrumbs and mix it into the mixture before forming the patty.

Happy Birthday Lientjie – have a wonderful birthday and great Fourth of July!

4 Comments

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4 responses to “The hamburger

  1. learn how to do it like the experts at hamburger university🙂
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburger_University

  2. Hi!
    Thanks for the lovely comment on my blog! I’ve spent quite some interesting time looking through some of your posts. I really should get busy, but I keep reading!

    One note: Whimpy was a character in a cartoon strip (and later animations) about Popeye the spinach loving sailorman. Whimpy loved White Castle hamburgers but didn’t like to pay for them so it was always tricking folks in buying burgers for him. White Castle burgers are little square burgers that you can eat by the sack. They are nicknamed whimpy-burgers, both for the size and the character. Ground beef had a poor reputation during the Depression (1920s) in the U.S. because it was usually produced from trimmings left from better cuts of beef—you couldn’t be sure you weren’t getting floor sweepings. White Castle was the first big chain to serve hamburgers: pure white castles, white counters, and the burger-making was in view of the customers who were reassured by the cleanliness and purity.

  3. Thanks so much!!! I love getting comments like these because they provide good information and help the post turn into something half decent!

  4. I don’t eat hamburgers often but when I do I like onion, cheese or avocado slices, fresh tomato from my garden, Jack Daniels BBQ sauce and a little bit of mayonnaise. I don’t like lettuce on my burger either, it always seems soggy to me. I have never heard of lemon in a hamburger-I will definitely give that a try!

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