Send Me Email:
coffeeblog (at) doublesquids.com
Meatballs have been eaten all over the world for time immemorial. Flatten one, put it in a bun, and you've got a hamburger. Hamburgers are now considered an American dish, but I have always wondered if they eat hamburgers in Hamburg, the north German port. Thanks to Google Maps. I now know. The Google map part of the photocollage shown above reveals the locations of McDonald's restaurants, which indicates that Hamburgians do indeed eat hamburgers. However, a long, fershlugginer internet search has only produced disputed claims about the origin of the name of the American hamburger, so I will arbitrarily assert my own theory: Meatballs, with or without bread are important fare in the cities of the old Hanseatic league on the Baltic, including Denmark, where meatballs are called frikadeller. In the mid-19th century, there was a vast immigrant wave from northern Europe to the USA, often crossing the Atlantic on ships sailing from Hamburg. One might easily presume that frikadeller would have been consumed before, during and after the voyage since chopped meat of dubious origin is cheap, and the name "Hamburger steak" would have been applied to such food, as it still is in the southern USA. The rest is history.
Now on to a comparative gastronomic tour of three hamburger restaurants in my local area (northern California), beginning with Barney's, with ten locations surrounding San Francisco bay. Barney's is where I go when I want dinner for under ten dollars and a "decent" hamburger. I always order the Barney burger, medium rare but definitely not overcooked, which comes unadorned on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, without all the Baroque trappings which are also available (as they would say in Hamburg, "ohne Putz") and lately I have being eating it without condiments (not even ketchup!) to best enjoy the taste of good beef, with the bread only to absorb some of the juice and to enable me to hold the meat in my hands. That is a hamburger as the gods created it. If it's trappings you want, Barneys has the bacon cheese burger, the Greek burger with feta cheese, the Popeye burger with spinach, and others; they even have burgers made from turkey, vegetables, or tofu for beef avoiders.
But what of McDonald's, which now has restaurants everywhere except for central Africa, central Asia, Greenland, Vietnam, and Burma, and perhaps a few other places? (See the little world map: all the areas in color have McDonald's.) At times when I needed to eat some protein fast I could get a double cheeseburger for a dollar: 25 grams of all-beef protein. Yeah, there still is trans-fat in it and what about the rain forest, but hey, this is not a perfect world. I can't help thinking that McDonald's has done more for the American poor by selling them an affordable hamburger that many government programs. And now, I'll stop such talk before I alienate my government-loving, McDonald's-hating Berkeley friends. (Yes, it's true, I did once write a Coffeeblog post from a McDonald's.)
So, what's left? Why, In-N-Out Burger, of course. The California chain, which began in Irvine (south of and a little bit east of Disneyland), serves the kind of burgers I remember from when I was a child in the 1950's. Fresh ingredients, good meat, fast service, In-N-Out specializes in hamburgers and only a few side dishes such as fried potatoes. If you want tofu, you've got to go to Barney's or to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, and if you want an Egg McMuffin, you've got to go to McDonald's. It is said that The Buddha taught what he referred to as the Middle Way, a path that led to enlightenment by avoiding the extremes of sensory self-indulgence and self-mortification. That could apply to hamburgers too. Between Barney's and McDonald's, there is the Middle Way of In-N-Out Burger. Welcome to California.Permanent Link to This Entry | | | Technorati Tag: Hamburger
Word search for recent posts to Jonathan's Coffeeblog:
Copyright ©2004, 2005, 2006 Jonathan David Leavitt