May is National Hamburger Month and specifically this Saturday, May 28 is National Hamburger Day. This iconic American food comes in countless forms, complemented with mouthwatering toppings from the classic to the extreme. Some simply like lettuce, tomato and onion on their burger while other, more adventurous diners, like to go big or go home with selections like runny eggs, crunchy chips or even gooey mac and cheese. And we haven’t even gotten to the vegetables – like fried onions, tender avocados, tart coleslaw, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms or mango salsa.
So where did this meaty meal come from and how did it become such an American staple? Well, for those answers we have to go back to Hamburg, Germany. The port city was known for its quality beef so when Germans started to immigrate to the States in the 19th century and open their restaurants they served Hamburg-style steak.
Now, determining how the bun was then introduced is a matter of contention as several cities and restaurants claim to be the originators. What we do know is that the hamburger was introduced on a large scale at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. From there, the first White Castle in 1921 allowed the hamburger to garner more popularity until McDonald’s, In-N-Out Burger, Burger King and Wendy’s all cemented it into our mainstream culture when they opened after World War II.