May 1st is National Burger Day (in the USA) and in honor of it I did a little research on the origins of the hamburger.
According to Wikipedia, the hamburger was not definitively created by one person. There are 3 claims of inventing the hamburger. The first, Charlie Nagreen, who in 1885 usually sold meatballs decided to flatten them for easy transport at a county fair in Seymour, Wisconsin. The second claim was by the Menches brothers in 1885 who usually made sandwiches from pork and ran out. The butcher didn’t want to butcher any more hogs in the summer heat and suggested beef. The brothers were also at a county fair, but in Hamburg, New York. They named the sandwich “Hamburg Sandwich” after the city it was invented in. Later it was shortened to Hamburger, which explains why a beef patty has “ham” in the name. The last claim was by a Texan, Fletcher Davis in the late 1880’s. He had been selling an unnamed ground beef sandwich at his cafe’s lunch counter.
Roger M. Grace wrote an article about the “Genealogy of American Hamburgers” in 2003 and traced its roots back to Russia. In this article he quotes, John Harmon, professor of geography at Central Connecticut State University:
“The origin of ground beef is accepted to have been with Mongolian and Turkic tribes known as Tartars who shredded low-quality beef from Asian cattle to make it more edible and digestible. Russian Tartars, possibly through other peoples in the Baltics, introduced it to Germany before the 14th century. The Germans flavored it with regional spices and either cooked it or ate it raw. It became a standard meal for poorer classes and in Hamburg acquired the name ‘Hamburg steak.’”
There is one consistent line in each of my sources, the hamburger didn’t show up in the USA until the 1880’s… which makes the hamburger roughly 124 years old. A classic. Over the course of May, which also happens to be National Hamburger Month, I will be posting new hamburger recipes. If you have one you’d like to share, I’d love for you to post it in comments. I may even try them out and write a review!