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Hamburger has a mysterious and contentious history

BurgerOne would think that there isn’t all that much to the ordinary everyday hamburger. The origins and history of hamburger, however, tends to be rather mysterious and highly debated.

  • Perhaps the earliest account of a hamburger like preparation goes back to Ancient Rome. The meat was molded into a patty for cooking and certain vegetables were mixed in with the meat to give it a certain look and flavor.
  • In the late 1100’s and into the early 1200’s, the legendary Mongols were conquering the world. Led by the relentless Genghis Khan, the mighty Mongol cavalry were constantly on the move and rarely stopped or rested during the forging of the empire. Often, the warriors had to eat while they rode. The Mongol warriors would cut up filleted meat of camel or horse and place it under their saddles. As they rode, the meat broke up and tenderized and was actually cooked by the heat of the saddle and the horse.
  • During this period, the Russians began to adapt the Mongol hamburger into a minced meat situation which they referred to as steak tartar. The Germans soon began using this meat dish and added vegetables and caviar which was popularly sold on virtually every street corner in the country.
  • During the 1800’s, the minced meat of later hamburger fame was considered a rare and delicate treat and was only enjoyed by the aristocracy and the wealthy of Europe in that period. Also, during that time, the city of Hamburg, Germany was one of the most important and biggest ports in the entire world. As Hamburg became a great leaping off point for emigration, the Germans, and others, would take with them to their new destinations their Hamburg type meat.
  • In the late 1800’s, with the invention of the durable meat grinding machine, ground up beef became hugely popular and soon the meatloaf came into existence. America was a huge cattle producing nation, and still is, so that, at the time, meat was pretty much affordable for everyone.

The hamburger as we know it today is shrouded in mystery from a Texan putting a ground steak between two pieces of bread to a teenage entrepreneur from Wisconsin selling his “hamburgers” at county fairs in the late 1800’s. No matter, the hamburger is here to stay and has become a dietary staple in almost every country in the world.