Today, our BFF, the hamburger, turns 105 years old. It was on July 28th, 1900 that Louis Lassen—proprietor of Louis' Lunch—first put a hamburg steak between two pieces of bread. Truth be told, it's unlikely that this was the very first burger, but the Library of Congress records this as the official birth of our favorite sandwich. Both Hamburger & Fries and What's Cooking America give much more thorough histories of the burger.
For your own knowledge, the earliest days of the burger began with Ghengis Kahn. What's Cooking America recounts the beginnings of the hamburger:
Genghis Khan (1167-1227), crowned the "emperor of all emperors," and his army of fierce Mongol horsemen, known as the "Golden Horde," conquered two thirds of the then known world. The Mongols were a fast-moving, cavalry-based army that rode small sturdy ponies. They stayed in their saddles for long period of time, sometimes days without ever dismounting. They had little opportunity to stop and build a fire for their meal. The entire village would follow behind the army on great wheeled carts they called "yurts," leading huge herds of sheep, goats, oxen, and horses. As the army needed food that could be carried on their mounts and eaten easily with one hand while they rode, ground meat was the perfect choice. They would use scrapings of lamb or mutton which were formed into flat patties. They softened the meat by placing them under the saddles of their horses while riding into battle. When it was time to eat, the meat would be eaten raw, having been tenderized by the saddle and the back of the horse.
Of course, the next big step was in Hamburg, Germany, hence the name, but we'll not go there. Both options listed above can give you the whole story.
Although the day is almost over for those of us on the East Coast, might we suggest you head out to your favorite burger joint and grab a burger. If not tonight, then this weekend. And when you're there, be sure to geek out, take some photos and post them on flickr so we can live through you vicariously.
The picture at the top is of Louis Lassen manning the grill at Louis' Lunch.
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