Such a grave matter as the history of the hamburger cannot be neglected by men of good conscience. I must therefore respond to some of the points you make in your most recent contribution to this string (spago?) but do so humbly and with the greatest respect both for you and for the office of Maiordomus.I Ontology and Morphology of the Bierock and Hamburger
Mike G wrote:
Antonius, despite your insidious attempts to sow doubt and discord, as a proud son of Kansas with German Mennonite forebears, it is plain to me that the idea of slipping a hamburger steak between an American-style roll was the work of proud, ingenious German Mennonites attempting to replicate a tasty homestyle bierock without the materials at hand.
The traditional Bierock of the Volga German Mennonites, surely derived from the �b�rek� of Turkic dwellers of the Steppes surrounding the Volga, differs radically from the modern American hamburger, in that in the former case the raw meat is enclosed in raw dough and the thus conjoined elements are then baked together as a single item, whereas, of course, in the latter case, the finished dish is produced through the employment of separate and disparate cooking methods performed on each of the two major components: the bread is first baked and at some later, potentially temporally far-removed time, it is then divided in pieces, between two of which the independently fried patty of ground flesh is placed.
From this observation, let us once and for all remove the Bierock from any discussion of the original conception of the Hamburger, though of course this conclusion in no way precludes the possibility of subsequent cross-influences of the Bierock upon the later development of the Hamburger, an eventuality for which we made allowance in our previous discussion in this string. Such cross-influence is made possible by the fact that the two dishes clearly share the most basic feature of bringing together a bread-like substance with ground meat but the differences, which secure the distinct ontological status of the two are several and unassailable.II Der �Urburger�
Drawing from this discussion as well as from some of the previous contributions to the argument, we may with justification attempt to define the Hamburger in the most basic, original sense. American Hamburger: a dish which is the complex of a minimally seasoned patty of ground beef, which has been fried (or in later versions grilled), and served between two pieces of a wheat-based baked good, upon which by facultative choice of the individual consumer may be added one or more of a wide range of condiments, including but not limited to sauces (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc.), vegetable matter (lettuce, tomato, onions raw or fried, pickled cucumbers, etc.), or animal products (e.g., cheese, bacon).
Now if we compare the American Hamburger, as here defined, to the Deutsches Beefsteak auf Hamburger Art, the resemblance is striking and undeniable:Deutsches Beefsteak auf Hamburger Art: a patty of minimally seasoned ground beef, which itself does not contain any starchy matter (mashed potato, bread roll), which is fried and accompanied by onion slices which are fried together with the patty in the fat and juices rendered from the cooking of the meat. By facultative choice of the individual cook and/or consumer, the patty may be served on a plate to be eaten with knife and fork along with other items, including bread or a bread roll, or the patty can be placed within a large incision made in a bread roll and thus consumed � pied.
The similarity of the North German dish to its American counterpart may seem too simple and basic to demand the invocation of any specific North German influence in the creation of the American Hamburger but in this regard we must bear the following key points in mind:
i) the Deutsches Beefsteak auf Hamburger Art stands out from other European preparations of ground meat in that a) only beef is used; b) the meat is only lightly seasoned; c) no starchy filler is added to the meat. No such treatment of ground beef is known to this writer in traditional cookery elsewhere in western Europe.
ii) the long-standing use in America of the appellation of �Hamburger� for the, at its very basis, essentially identical treatment of ground beef known in Germany as �Deutsches Beefsteak auf Hamburger Art� indicates that at the very least, there was more or less widespread association of the ground beef preparation with German and specifically �Hamburgian� origins, for the name has not only remained over time but in addition has no regional, ethnic or class-oriented competitors (terms such as �slider� being clearly of secondary origin and application). Whether a similar preparation arose independently in North America and only subsequently came to take on at some later time the German-derived appellation cannot be ascertained, but there is no a priori reason to prefer such a scenario to the more straight-forward explanation, by which the Hamburger would have been a preparation of ground beef introduced by North Germans and labelled "Hamburger" by them or by their non-German neighbours.
iii) From this argumentation, it follows that we may well be emboldened to suggest that the original condiment to the American Hamburger was the selfsame one employed by the inhabitants of Lower Saxony, namely the fried onion. And indeed, the association of the fried or grilled onion with the fried or grilled ground-beef patty is widespread and long-standing in North America. Again, such a combination is hardly rare in the cuisines of the world, but the coalescence of various purely culinary elements � choice of meat, seasoning technique, meat to bread relationship, cooking method, and basic condiment �� together with the undeniable onomastic connexion, lends the following suppositions an extraordinarily high degree of probable veracity:
1. The American Hamburger is a direct descendant of the Deutsches Beefsteak auf Hamburger Art, introduced presumably by immigrants from North Germany and especially Hamburg.
2. From early on, the favoured and now wholly dominant presentation of the Hamburger in America involves placement of the patty between two pieces of some manner of bread; thus, a variant treatment known in Germany was selected as the canonical treatment in America.
3. The form of bread most likely used (optionally) in Germany and now vastly favoured in the United States is a roll (as opposed to slices of a large loaf of bread), but sliced bread has likely always been an acceptable option (e.g., Hackney�s use of sliced pumpernickel!)
4. The original and most fundamental (Ur-) condiment for the American Hamburger was likely the fried onion, though clearly the use of condiments has been and remains a largely open and secondary matter. N.B., the occurrence of fried eggs as a condiment for the patty in some early American recipes may well further strengthen the North German connexion, for across North Germany and the Netherlands, fried eggs are commonly used as a topping to meat dishes.
In conclusion, let me express my unconditional agreement with you that attempts to trace the origins of dishes such as the Hamburger to the work of a single individual are clearly misguided and can be dismissed as the expression of intellectual simplicity or even vacuity. I no more believe some single person invented the dish at the St. Louis World�s Fair or at Louis� Lunch counter in New Haven than I believe the father of Doctor Evil invented the question mark. Furthermore, I will happily concede the possibility that Wichita and Kansas played an especially key r�le in the later development of the dish in North America, though I claim no special expertise in 20th century victology of the western States. Nevertheless, I hope here to have made a strong case for the American Hamburger owing its existence to the endeavours of intrepid North German cooks, and thus being ultimately the continuation of a gift bestowed upon the ancient inhabitants of the Elbe region by their beloved god, Saxnot.
(Twisted Evil Rolling Eyes Wink)