- Series: Edible
- Hardcover: 128 pages
- Publisher: Reaktion Books; 73 edition (October 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1861893906
- ISBN-13: 978-1861893901
- Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,885,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hamburger: A Global History (Edible) Hardcover – October 15, 2008
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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
“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
“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.”
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Having said that, I still learned quite a bit from this book, primarily about how technology shaped burgers and fries. Until the 1870s or so, ground beef was a labor-intensive (and thus expensive) food. What changed? The growth of commercial meat grinders made ground beef much cheaper, and as a result the "Hamburg steak" (aka ground beef) become a common restaurant dish. Industrialization and urban growth created a demand for fast food among workers who could not go home for mid-shift meals, and as a result "lunch wagons" arose to serve them; they turned the hamburger "steak" into a sandwich in order to make it easier for workers to handle.
And until the mid-20th century, french fries were not really "fast food" because deep frying required cooks to be careful if they did not want to be injured by boiling grease. But in the 1950s, foolproof, safe fryers were invented, and so fast-food restaurants added fries to the menu. Fast food became even faster in the 1950s, when the (then) new McDonald's restaurant saved time and labor by creating an assembly-line system for food preparation.
The book mainly traces the development of the hamburger as a phenomenon of American culture and how it has gone worldwide. I especially enjoyed finding out about the history of companies such as White Castle and McDonald's, and how American companies have adapted the product to new markets in China, India and elsewhere. This book forms a case study in the origin, development, and marketing of a product that has become an American cultural mainstay--and how it is becoming internationalized.
I could do without the last section on hamburger recipes, but some readers will find it interesting. It's worth a read for anyone interested in the history of an American icon.
And the rest is history. McDonalds, Burger King, Wedny's, Wimpy, Big Boy, and, of course, White Castle. Hamburgers went well with fries or cola or onion rings but no matter what the side dish hamburgers had become king. BOW BEFORE THE BURGER!
Still, I prefer hot dogs.
Anyway, this book is small but holds a ton of information and I suggest it for anybody who enjoys food and the history behind it.
I would recommend this as a short, fun read. Lots of good pictures, too!!