The Hamburger, By Josh Ozersky Yale

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The Independent Culture

Studying the story of the hamburger is, says food writer Josh Ozersky, "one way of studying the country that invented it, and then reinvented it again and again".

As with all icons, the humble hamburger's origins are disputed: was it created by the Menches brothers in 1885 in Hamburg, New York, when they sold their ground-beef sandwich at a country fair? Or was it when that ground-beef patty was first placed in a bun of equal size, as it was at Weber's restaurant in Tulsa in 1933?

Whatever its beginnings, the burger has become as synonymous with America as cowboys and Cadillacs, a part of its capitalist culture represented by those famed Golden Arches, now exported all over the world. Yet, the irony that this blue-collar, poor-man's feast – hot, nutritious, and easy to eat while working (or driving) – has become the means by which other men have made millions is not lost on Ozersky.

Its place as part of the history of Fordism is interesting, too: an unsettled past meant that Americans of the 1950s yearned for standardisation – and little was more standardised than millions of round burgers in the same comforting round baps.