Sunday, July 24, 2022

Hamburger- Food for the poor

The Poor Man’s meal isn’t fancy or winning any awards, but it’s one of the most simple and delicious comfort foods around. The earliest hamburger relative, meat tartare, was born far, far away from the United States. Urban legend contended that Mongol horsemen first ate a similar style of beef, steak tartare, in the 12th century. The trend made its way through the trade routes via Russia before landing in Germany.

By the 19th century, beef from German Hamburg cows was minced and combined with garlic, onions, salt and pepper, then formed into patties (without bread or a bun) to make Hamburg steaks.

Immigrants to the United States from German-speaking countries brought with them some of their favorite foods. One of them was Hamburg Steak. The Germans simply flavored shredded low-grade beef with regional spices, and both cooked and raw it became a standard meal among the poorer classes.

Many people assumed that ground beef was dirty and during the early 1900s the hamburger was considered “a food of the poor,” polluted and unsafe to eat.

In 1906, Upton Sinclair had published a book called The Jungle which exposed the unsanitary meat processing methods of the time. He detailed the unsavory side of the American meatpacking industry. Industrial ground beef was easy to adulterate with fillers, preservatives and meat scraps, and the hamburger became a prime suspect. This book caused consumers to worry about the safety of hamburger.

Restaurants rarely served hamburgers; they were served at lunch carts parked near factories, at circuses carnivals and state fairs. It was widely believed that ground beef was made from rotten old meat full of chemical preservatives. Dishonest butchers sold ground beef that was really a mixture of spoiled meat, fat scraps, and animal parts that no one would choose to eat. To most Americans, ground beef was an unsafe food.

Not only was considered “food for the poor” but it also had a rather dubious reputation; the burger was associated with criminal activity. In 191o, Alexander J. Moody, a wealthy baker of firm Moody & Waters from Chicago, died after somebody put poison in his burger. It was reported that the poison was contained in hamburger steak eaten by Moody.

One year later, a Chicago pie maker was poisoned the same way. Similar murder stories appeared in newspapers across the United States. The police were never able to solve the case.

The widespread fear of hamburgers caused a great deal of frustration among butches. They liked to grind leftover pieces of beef not hamburger meat. They liked selling every scrap of meat in the store. They didn’t want to waste any of it.

The hamburger might have remained on the seamier margins of American cuisine were it not for the vision of Edgar “Billy” Ingram and Walter Anderson, who opened their first White Castle restaurant in Kansas in 1921.

It started when Walter Anderson, a short order cook, in Wichita, Kansas had saved enough money to purchase an old shoe repair building and converted it into a hamburger for nickel.

He arranged for beef to be delivered twice a day, and sometimes more often and he ground his own beef so that customer could watch him do so through glass windows. White Castle countered hamburger meat’s low reputation by becoming bastions of cleanliness, health and hygiene
Hamburger- Food for the poor