The History of the Hamburger

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The History of the Hamburger

Postby Daniel Rogov » Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:49 am

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Victorino Matus reviews Josh Ozensky's newly released book: The Hamburger – A History. As used to be said by newsboys hawking their newspapers on the street: "Read all about it…." In my words – "White Castle and McDonald's – The Barbarians Are At The Gates"

See the article at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Utilities ... =13C1A3C9D

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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Ryan M » Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:33 am

The fact that White Castle was one of the first quality burger chains really suprises me. I've only eaten there once that I can remember, probably about 20 years ago now (yes, I'm just old enough to be able to think back that far), and I can still remember the disturbing texture and flavor of their burgers. Didn't even taste like beef. They are widely popular around here (south-central Indiana), and I cannot for the life of me understand why. I've come to see White Castle as representing exactly the opposite of their founding principles - low quality for the indiscriminating masses. All that aside, has anybody actually tried their burgurs recently?

Oh, for anybody in Indiana who doesn't already know, about the best fast food burgers I've ever encountered are at Rally's.
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Daniel Rogov » Tue Sep 23, 2008 2:07 pm

Ryan, Hi....

I remember White Castle and White Tower burgers from my childhood (somewhere at about the time that Moses and his entrouge were wandering about in Sinai) and I recall that even then thinking that although their piccalilli relish was just fine their burgers were most definitively second rate in my book. It may be memory playing tricks, but as I try to call those burgers to mind I remember things of the thickness and consistency of a truck tire and of the flavor of cardboard that had been soaked in chicken stock. And then came McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King et al and I knew things could be even worse.......


Marie Curie reminded us that "progress is neither swift nor easy". Hope does, however, live eternal and just a few weeks ago I dined at a local restaurant (Moses in Ramat HaChayal) and wrote:

As a main course I reverted to the ultimately American dish – the classic hamburger. When the burger sandwich arrived it took me a minute or two to take it in, the large seeded roll enclosing a 300 gram burger, that sitting on a bed of lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles, those on a mayonnaise based sauce and all topped with the additional bacon and Cheddar cheese that I had requested. There is probably not a mouth capable of opening widely enough to take in a full bite, so one has to decide whether to attack this at a series of shifting angles or with a fork and knife. Being brave of heart, it was by hand that I undertook the task of eating this lovely creation. The burger itself, the thick beef patty crisp on the exterior and medium-rare inside as ordered was a delight and the flavors of the sauce and perfectly fresh vegetables complemented that nicely. Better yet, the bacon was crisp and just salty enough and the cheese had melted nicely. I needed nothing more on the burger but for those who might have wanted it there were homemade ketchup and chili sauce available. Nor did I regret the side order of French fries that I had ordered, those fresh piping hot and full of flavor. Many from Manhattan and other parts of the USA like their chips with ketchup but I, with at least part of my soul still in Brooklyn, enjoy them with mustard and this too was available for my use.

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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Ryan M » Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:13 pm

You're making me hungry . . . . :)
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Robert Reynolds » Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:11 am

A really good burger is always welcome on my plate. I'm partial to bison burgers with a thick slice of cheddar, dill pickles and spicy mustard. And none of those wimpy 1/4 pounders! I make them at least 6-ounces.
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Shel T » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:59 am

I didn't like White Castle either and couldn't understand what all the shouting was about. And as we're talking about burger chains, the first one to grab me was the Bob's Big Boy, loved everything about them that included the ambience and a bunch of happy devotees. Several years later a small Calif. chain called Fatburger was the one of choice and no doubt added to my cholesterol count for quite a while.
Now since the burger has become ubiquitous, I've got several one-off joints that serve absolutely great burgers and their offshoots, chili size and patty melts. Yes, it's a pleasure to be a carnivore!
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Jenise » Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:34 pm

Shel T wrote:I didn't like White Castle either and couldn't understand what all the shouting was about. And as we're talking about burger chains, the first one to grab me was the Bob's Big Boy, loved everything about them that included the ambience and a bunch of happy devotees. Several years later a small Calif. chain called Fatburger was the one of choice and no doubt added to my cholesterol count for quite a while.
Now since the burger has become ubiquitous, I've got several one-off joints that serve absolutely great burgers and their offshoots, chili size and patty melts. Yes, it's a pleasure to be a carnivore!


When I am back in So Cal on visits, a must-stop is In n' Out. There isn't a better fast food burger on the planet, to my tastes. But Bob's Big Boy nonetheless has a good place in my heart, the location on Whittier Blvd. being the prime hang-out for those of us who 'cruised' on Friday nights in high school, owing as much to ambience as it's prime location as the perfect turn-around point.
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Jenise » Thu Sep 25, 2008 5:37 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote: I needed nothing more on the burger


Ah, but could you need less? If the ingredients are stellar, condiments are superfluous and can have a dulling effect--perhaps you taste less smoke from the bacon, less acid from the tomato, less sharpness from the cheddar. How can that be good?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Shel T » Thu Sep 25, 2008 6:51 pm

I agree that as 'chains' go, In-N-Out Burger is up there and have had several burgers from them but am not as wildly enthusiastic as some are about them.
Re Bob's, did my cruising at the Burbank location and have been meaning to go by there for ages as it's been renovated. Shades of "American Graffiti", I can hear Wolfman Jack now howling from the Mighty 690!
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Jeff_Dudley » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:29 pm

I'm a home-grilled burger fan myself, but there have been some good stands. Does anyone remember Lumberjack's, near the VN airport on Vanowen ? The Munchbox on Devonshire ?

Daniel - mustard on fries ? I switched to ranch dressing years ago, now making note to self: must try mustard soon. Deli-style ? Yellow ? Dijon ?

Jenise - so that was you on Whittier Blvd ? Ha. When we visited family near Imperial and 1st Ave we would get out there among them too. Wow. But we usually cruised closer to home, Van Nuys Blvd, where Bob's also reigned supreme for late night stops for good burgers, fries, vanilla cokes, malts and hot fudge cake. I also like In-n-Out just fine but it's their fries that call to me more than the burgers.

Shel T - you're scarin' me Man ! I thought heard Wolfman Jack died a long time ago. But you know what they say about a wolfman; it takes a silver bullet to end it all. A-roooooooh.
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Daniel Rogov » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:49 pm

Jeff_Dudley wrote:... mustard on fries ? I switched to ranch dressing years ago, now making note to self: must try mustard soon. Deli-style ? Yellow ? Dijon ?


Ideal is deli mustard; second best would you believe Heinz standard yellow.

As to Wolfman Jack, one could argue forever about whether he was a "counterculture hero" or simply a "hero". And who here is old enough to remember Charlie Drew?

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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Shel T » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:07 pm

Jeff, the Wolfman may be dead, but not forgotten, immortalized forever in the film and American Graffiti was aired a couple of months ago and enjoyed it all over again!
Re cruising, the "ultimate" cruise joint, without doubt, was Dolores' Drive-In on Wilshire & La Cienega. On the weekends there would be a traffic jam for a mile in any direction.
Daniel, who's Charlie Drew? Not a L.A. DJ I've ever heard of.
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Daniel Rogov » Wed Oct 08, 2008 6:35 pm

Shel, Hi......

From the late 1940's until the mid 1960's, Charlie Drew was the resident pianist at The Tap Room of Manhattan's Taft Hotel. Charlie was probably the progenator of those songsters who sang "naughty" and suggestive but never "dirty" songs (one of his favorites was I love to nibble on your cupcakes).

I made the connection between the two because when Wolfman Jack was doing his thing at WINS he used to take breaks at the Tap Room and at times the two of them would do some marvelous skits.

Best of my memory was Mrs. Meriweather who used to come to the Tap Room every Thursday night, there to take a table by herself, dressed invariably in what must have been high fashion during the 1920's, always elegant if not a bit shabby. During the course of the evening she would nurse two glasses of "Sparkling Burgundy" and then one coffee (black no sugar). Whenever she would arrive, Charlie would stand up, walk to the door to escort her to her table, kiss her hand, return to his piano and dedicate the next song to her.

I suppose that everyone, including Charlie thought of Mrs. Meriweather as a somewhat down-and-out lady who came to the tap room to recall better days. Despite that, he always treated her like royalty and, "knowing" that she was broke, she was never presented with a bill.

When Mrs. Meriweather died, she left Charlie six million dollars.
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Re: The History of the Hamburger

Postby Shel T » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:39 pm

Daniel, love the Charlie Drew-Mrs. Meriweather story, just shows to go ya, doesn't cost anything to be nice and sometimes even pays off!
Apparently, Mr. Drew escaped my musical education, but without the Net, we were so-o-o parochial in them thar days! NYC was a separate universe from L.A.
But I did take note of singers and songs on the 'edge' and Drew sure had some excellent competition in the genre, cabaret, lounge and clubs acts like Noel Coward, Dinah Washington and Eartha Kitt and R&B guys like Big Joe turner and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.
And thanks for the info on the Wolfman, didn't know he'd get up and do 'shtick'.
More's the pity that those kind of venues have practically disappeared entirely, 'cuz what's replaced them sure as hell isn't an improvement.
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