Summer is pretty much in full swing where I live. Honestly, our summer hits about mid-spring and lasts through much of fall. So, grilling is a way of life around here, and I can't think of a more quintessential grill staple than the hamburger. If you're of a certain age, you'll remember good ol' Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons. He was willing to go into debt for a bite of this classic. However, where did this fast-food fortune-maker come from? Grab a pair of tongs, tap them twice to make sure they still work, and let's find out!
While the modern hamburger can claim to be 100% USA, its ancestor cannot. This meaty treat got its mainstream start in the port city of Hamburg, Germany. From there, what was known as the "Hamburg Steak" made its way from the port city into other countries. When it finally found its way to New York, New York, it stuck as a dietary staple.
While we may never know who actually thought up the "Hamburg Steak," we can certainly point the finger at the man who created the modern hamburger as we know it. Walt Anderson, a short-order cook in Witchita, Kansas, loved to experiment with burger sizes and shapes. As legend has it, he was cooking meatballs one day on his griddle-top. The dang things kept on sticking, and today Walt wasn't having it. Walt smashed one of the meatballs in a fit of frustration, thus creating the first patty burger.
Not familiar with Mr. Anderson? I'll bet you're familiar with the restaurant he started from a hamburger stand in 1916 with an $80 loan. That restaurant? White Castle.
Mongolian calvary may have had a hand in getting the "Hamburg Steak" to Germany by way of Russia. Soldiers would store cuts of meat under their saddles during long rides. This both preserved and tenderized the meat as they rode. The Russians adopted the raw meat dish as Steak Tartare, and the Germans created Hamburg Steak.