Who Invented the Hamburger

Lab grown beef
Lab grown beef | Source

Meat grown in Petri dishes

On Monday, August 5, 2013, scientists at Dr Mark Post's laboratory in Maastricht University in the Netherlands, will cook the world's most expensive hamburger, made from meat grown in Petri dishes in his lab. Post's team grew 20,000 muscle fibers in an individual culture well, suspended in a gel-like growth medium. The fibers were pressed together to form the hamburger – biologically identical to beef but grown in a lab rather than in a cow. The total cost so far of the project has been $ 331,925. That is an expensive hamburger, imagine the scenario "Waiter, my hamburger is over cooked"! At the moment, the meat will be strictly muscle fibers but the same techniques will work to produce fat which should make it more palatable. The hope is for an event that will change the way we see food. Good luck with that, Europe still bans most GMO crops while we in the US just chow down. If they can get the cost down, we will soon see lab burgers on the menu.

"Two volunteers who participated in the first public frying of hamburger grown in a lab said Monday that it had the texture of meat but was short of flavor because of the lack of fat".

We have been eating ground meat for millennia and there are places that claim to have invented the hamburger as we know it.

Lab Grown Burger or Frankenburger

Relief of cattle cutting up in Kagemni mastaba, Saqqara, Egypt. Kagemni was a vizier of pharaos Djedkare Isesi and Unas (5th dynasty), and Teti (6th dynasty), 24th century BC.
Relief of cattle cutting up in Kagemni mastaba, Saqqara, Egypt. Kagemni was a vizier of pharaos Djedkare Isesi and Unas (5th dynasty), and Teti (6th dynasty), 24th century BC. | Source

Egypt and Rome

One of the earliest instances of ground meat being consumed may be Kofta Egypt's original version of the hamburger and meatball. Egyptians use ground lamb (or camel!) and grill it with a mix of spices and onions. Romans had their own version of ground meat being used in Ancient Roman Lucanian Sausage. Perhaps linking these dishes to our hamburger is a stretch but it is just as dubious for someone to claim ownership of such a simple concept. (Take that Earl of Sanswich)

Tartar Warrior Checking His Horse
Tartar Warrior Checking His Horse | Source

Mongols, Genghis Khan or Kublai Khan

Steak tartare was borne of the eating habits of the fierce medieval Mongols of the Russian steppes (some of these were known to the Romans as the Tartars). Culinary history is full of tales of how the Mongols cavalrymen would place strips of horsemeat or beef under their saddles to be tenderized and slightly cooked by the heat of their horse. When Kublai Khan later brought it to Russia, it was turned into the dish we know as steak tartare. Other experts dismiss this and say that while they did place strips of meat under their saddles, they didn't eat the meat, it was there to prevent saddle sores while the Mongols ate mostly dairy. Thus, neither Steak tartare nor hamburger owes anything to Genghis Khan or Kublai Khan.

Frikadelle
Frikadelle | Source

German city of Hamburg

By the 15th century, minced beef was a delicacy throughout Europe. In northern Germany, lightly fried chopped meat was called Frikadelle. In England the term "forcemeat" was used for finely ground meat, Forcemeat was defined by Randle Holme in "The Academy of Armory" (Chester, 1688) as "meat with a stuffing of herbs, or other things made to that purpose." In other parts of Europe, hashed beef was made into sausage. In Italy, Russia, and Germany, minced beef was combined with other meats and other ingredients in sausages. In England mincemeat pies were a staple part of the Christmas celebration and these were made with finely chopped meats with dried fruit and spices.

The German city of Hamburg was known for its beef sausage. During the 1840s, Germans were moving to America and some of them came from Hamburg, Germany. Those immigrants are credited with bringing the recipe for Hamburg steak to American shores. No bun mind you but the steak was well known by the 1870s, and mentioned in the New York Times: "simply a beefsteak redeemed from its original toughness by being mashed into mincemeat and then formed into a conglomerated mass."

Salisbury_steak_(Filete_ruso)
Salisbury_steak_(Filete_ruso) | Source

Dr. James Salisbury

During the Civil war, Dr. James Henry Salisbury came up with chopped beef patties to cure Civil War soldiers sufferering from "camp diarrhea." The patties were made of beef with no fat, cartilage or connective tissues, seasoned, and broiled. Dr. Salisbury advocated eating beef three times a day. The term "Salisbury steak" dates back in print to 1897, and is one of the many claims to the invention of the hamburger.

Entrance to a sideshow at the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York 2007
Entrance to a sideshow at the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, New York 2007 | Source

Charles & Frank Menches

According to one story, in 1885 at the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, NY, Charles & Frank Menches Invented the hamburger. The story goes that the Menches ran out of pork sausages to sell so they ran out of sausages to sell so they substituted ground beef, As if the burger wasn't enough, in 1904, at The St. Louis World’s Fair, they invented the Ice Cream Cone. In 1994, Charles Menches' great grandchildren, Tom & John Menches, Judy Kusmits, and Linda Aleman, opened Menches Brothers Restaurant in the city of Green, Ohio.

Seymour takes the cheeseburger seriously

Cheese is being put on the giant cheese burger at the Burger Fest in Seymour, Wisconsin on August 4, 2012.
Cheese is being put on the giant cheese burger at the Burger Fest in Seymour, Wisconsin on August 4, 2012. | Source

Charlie Nagreen

Also in 1885, Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin is said to have sold hamburgers at the Outagamie County Fair in 1885. Charlie went to the fair to sell meatballs but the fairgoers had a hard time eating them while walking so Charlie flattened them out and stuck them between two slices of bread. On January 30, 1997, a Wisconsin Assembly Joint Resolution was filed by Representative Tom Nelson to declare Seymour, Wisconsin, as the home of the hamburger. The bill is still pending before the committee on Rules.

Minced meat patties and rösti don't count as hamburgers without the bun
Minced meat patties and rösti don't count as hamburgers without the bun | Source
Governor Frank Keating, Governor for the state of Oklahoma presides over weighty issues like hamburgers.
Governor Frank Keating, Governor for the state of Oklahoma presides over weighty issues like hamburgers. | Source

Oscar Weber Bilby

Does a burger have to be served on a bun to be the real thing? Oscar Weber Bilby is supposed to be the first to serve hamburgers on a bun at his farm in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1891. In 1995 Michael Wallis, in Oklahoma Today magazine, wrote "Welcome To Hamburger Heaven", interviewing Oscar's grandson, Harold Bilby:

"Grandpa himself told me that it was in June of 1891 when he took up a chunk of iron and made himself a big ol' grill," explains Harold. "Then the next month on the Fourth of July he built a hickory wood fire underneath that grill, and when those coals were glowing hot, he took some ground Angus meat and fired up a big batch of hamburgers. When they were cooked all good and juicy, he put them on my Grandma Fanny's homemade yeast buns - the best buns in all the world, made from her own secret recipe".

On April 13, 1995, Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma proclaimed that the real birthplace of the hamburger on the bun, was created and consumed in Tulsa in 1891 "I, Frank Keating, Governor of the State of Oklahoma, do hereby proclaim April 12, 1995, as THE REAL BIRTHPLACE OF THE HAMBURGER IN TULSA DAY".

A burger at Louis Lunch, and there will be no ketchup or mustard!
A burger at Louis Lunch, and there will be no ketchup or mustard! | Source

Otto Kuasw and Louis Lassen

It seems that 1891 was a good year for burgers, another one to create the hamburger was German cook Otto Kuasw. He created a sailors' sandwich made of a beef patty fried in butter, served with a fried egg, between two toasted buns. He named the sandwich the "German beefsteak". Sailors traveling between Hamburg and New York requested a similar "Hamburg style" sandwich at American steakhouses.

Louis Lassen of New Haven, Connecticut has been also credited as serving the first hamburger from his lunch wagon in 1900. "We have signed, dated and notarized affidavits saying we served the first hamburger sandwiches in 1900. Other people may have been serving the steak but there's a big difference between a hamburger steak and a hamburger sandwich."
Louis' Lunch is still selling their hamburgers from a small brick building in New Haven.
"The beginnings of the hamburger sandwich as we all know it today was really quite simple. One day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly walked into Louis' Lunch and told proprietor Louis Lassen he was in a rush and wanted something he could eat on the run. In an instant, Louis placed his own blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast and sent the gentleman on his way. And so, the most recognizable American sandwich was born".
Honoring Louis' Lunch on Its 105th Anniversary - Representative Rosa L. DeLauro:
. . . it is with great pleasure that I rise today to celebrate the 105th anniversary of a true New Haven landmark: Louis' Lunch. Recently the Lassen family celebrated this landmark as well as the 100th anniversary of their claim to fame — the invention and commercial serving of one of America's favorites, the hamburger". The other complaint about the Louis' claim is that Louis' sandwich was supposed to have been served on toast not a bun (Horrors!) thus discrediting their claim.

Louis' Lingo Louis' Lunch Web Site

If you are visiting Louis' for the first time, you may want to learn a little of the "Louis' Lingo". For example, a Louis' regular might walk up to the counter and say "give me two cheese works, a salad and a birch". This translates to "May I have two hamburgers with cheese, tomato and onion, cooked medium rare on toast, an order of potato salad and a birch beer".

"Meet Me in St. Louis", is a popular song from 1904 which celebrated the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World's Fair.
"Meet Me in St. Louis", is a popular song from 1904 which celebrated the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World's Fair. | Source

Fletcher C. Davis

Moving on to 1904, at the St. Louis World's Fair, Fletcher C. Davis of Athens, Texas served hamburgers. In the 1970s, the Dallas Morning News published stories about the history of the hamburger. The News quoted an article in the New York Tribune about the fair's "new sandwich" that was "the innovation of a food vendor on the pike." Fast forward to 2006, and Betty Brown of the Texas House of Representatives filed a bill declaring Athens, Texas to be the "Original Home of the Hamburger."
The bill passed by unanimous vote. Politicians in Texas know how to come together and work on controversial issues and benefit all Texans.

Source

Who Wins?

This is getting serious, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Texas and Connecticut all claiming they invented the hamburger. So far, there are no reports of troops in the streets but Texas is Tea Party country and Connecticut is a hotbed of Progressives. We can only hope that cool heads will prevail in our divided country. No matter who prevails we will all still get our favorite burgers and a portion of that meat will probably be made of "Pink Slime"

Canada came to this issue a bit later but some Canadians claim the hamburger was invented at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1912.

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Comments 2 comments

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

Being a burger lover, I had heard about the Hamburg connection. But interesting to know that King Tut might have enjoyed a burger or two. :)


chefsref profile image

chefsref 3 years ago from Citra Florida Author

Hey Heidi

Thanx for the comment. Yeah, a pet peeve of mine is how we think we invented everything. People built the pyramids and Rome were certainly clever enough to put meat on bread.

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