No other American food, not even the hot dog, dares lay equal claim to the hamburger’s iconic status. Food historian and sociologist Smith traces the origins of the hamburger to its murky nineteenth-century birth, refusing to credit any of the competing claims to the ground-beef sandwich’s beginning, noting the absence of any primary documentation. The hamburger might never have become America’s signature dish had it not been for the spread of the automobile, which made the drive-in the roadscape’s dominant feature. Smith recounts the history of McDonald’s and White Castle as well as that of Burger King, Wendy’s, and all the other chains that have achieved global ubiquity. Cultural warriors may object to burgers’ dominance, but people’s appetites still find them irresistible. Smith cannot write about the hamburger without treating also its helpmate, the french fry. Recipes for burgers illustrate just a few of the sandwich’s countless variations. --Mark Knoblauch
"The Edible series contains some of the most delicious nuggets of food and drink history ever. Every volume is such a fascinating and succinct read that I had to devour each in just a single sitting. . . . food writing at its best!"
(Ken Hom, chef and author 2008-07-14)
“A timely retort to gourmandism run amok, the first three titles in this chapbook series aim . . . to illuminate and elevate taken-for-granted staples via concise, discrete histories. As such, Hamburger is equal parts myth debunker and modernization theorizer.”—Atlantic
"Books in Reaktion's Edible series are paragons of their type; concise and flavorful, jammed with interesting facts, period photos and just a handful of recipes, in case you want to 'do it yourself.' I recommend these books to foodies and academics alike."
(Robert Sietsema, restaurant critic for the Village Voice)
“The books in the Edible series combine straightforward historical data with affectionate ruminations on how the food shows up in culture: movies, music, TV shows, billboards, slogans.”—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
“These are food memoirs, salacious and exotic, colorful, powdered, sweet, greasy and globe-trotting.”
(Christopher Borrelli Chicago Tribune
"No other American food, not even the hot dog, dares lay equal claim to the hamburger's iconic status. Food historian and sociologist Smith traces the origins of the hamburger to its murky nineteenth-century birth, refusing to credit any of the competing claims to the ground-beef sandwich's beginning, nothing the absence of any primary documentation."
"In slim formats--a lot more than a soupcon, far less than a magnum--each Edible title will spotlight a food or drink in global context. The primary intent, says the series editor, Andrew F. Smith, is to reach the 'thinking public' with matieral drawn and translated from scholarly work. . . . Smith says he looks at food writing 'as a tool to talk about other things.' For his own Edible book, Hamburger: A Global History, a central 'other thing' is globalization, even as he starts very locally."
(Nina C. Ayoub The Chronicle Review
"Smith knows his hamburger history . . . and his synopses of the rise of the great burger chains, and their global impact, provide an interesting point of view on the effects of globalization in the modern world."
"The remarkable feature of Hamburger is that it evinces genuine wonder at the innovation behind fast-food chains. It can be easy to deplore the rise of fast food or take it as a foregone conclusion, but Smith makes a point of celebrating ingenuity and letting the reader enjoy it, as well."
(Margot Kaminski Gastronomica