The Nearly Impossible Feat of Making a Cheeseburger from Scratch

Waldo Jaquith had considered trying to make a cheeseburger from scratch—the sort of "from scratch" that involves grinding his own wheat, making his own cheese, raising his own cows, and then some—but the more he thought about the great number of resources needed and various growing seasons involved, the more he realized it was nearly impossible:

Further reflection revealed that it's quite impractical—nearly impossible—to make a cheeseburger from scratch. Tomatoes are in season in the late summer. Lettuce is in season in the fall. Mammals are slaughtered in early winter. The process of making such a burger would take nearly a year, and would inherently involve omitting some core cheeseburger ingredients. It would be wildly expensive—requiring a trio of cows—and demand many acres of land. There's just no sense in it.

A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors--in all likelihood, a couple of dozen--and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn't have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.