America’s Cuisine

Fireworks during the fourth of july in America

Photo via rockland411.com

Happy Fourth of July to everyone! As we reflect on all things American and celebrate the birth of our nation, it is worthwhile to pause and consider how we arrived where we are today.  Specifically, where did hamburgers and hot dogs come from?

Hamburgers 

Hamburgers are the quintessential American cuisine: it was brought here by immigrants, innovated in America, developed to be easy to eat on the go to accomodate our fast paced lifestyle, and was made a staple partly because of mass production and industrialization. The hamburger’s origin is somewhat controversial–poor records in the early 20th Century contributed to the issue.  While one person is not likely to official gain the illustrious title of “Inventor of the Hamburger,” it is clear that we have the hamburg steak to thank for the creation of hamburgers.  Hamburg steaks, originally from Hamburg, Germany (surprise!), are composed of ground beef and either smoked, roasted, or fried.  As early as 1873, restaurants in New York City began featuring Hamburg style steaks in order to attract European immigrants.  Eventually, people began to put a hamburg steak between two pieces of bread to make it easy to eat on the move.  Surprisingly, McDonald’s was not the first fast food chain that developed because of the hamburger. White Castle is credited with developing the chain restaurant model and with putting hamburgers in the public mind.

Hot dogs  

The Oscar Meyer weiner song is a classic fixture for many American children.  I even remember asking my parents to sing it to me before bed as a child.  Much like hamburgers, the beginnings of what we know as hotdogs is somewhat unclear.  Toward the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, sausage vendors began to serve their frankfurters to customers in a bun for a variety of reasons.  Some used a bun to prevent people from burning their hands, others just wanted their food to be more mobile.  Over time people began experimenting with different ingredients and ketchup and mustard became standard.  There is a popular myth that the name “hotdog” came from a New York cartoonist who, when creating a depiction of a dachshund in a bun, could not remember how to spell dachshund so wrote hot dog instead. Recently, researchers believe they have found a more accurate story.  There was a frankfurter vendor in New Jersey whose nickname was “Hot Dog Morris.” Eventually, he began marketing his product with the name “hot dog.”  Perhaps we will never know the exact origin of the name, but we can still enjoy hot dogs this Fourth of July. Read more about the name here: http://tinyurl.com/kmbbadd.   

Which side of the debate are you on? Hamburgers or Hotdogs? Comment below!

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