Samuel Muston: Ernest Hemingway's hamburger is a moveable feast


Writers famously like drinking. Drinking in the morning, drinking in the evening, and possibly drinking themselves into an early grave if they are Dylan Thomas (the day before he died he offered the maid cleaning his room a glass of whiskey; posterity does not relate her reply). It is a trope so well-travelled that it has become almost lore, with people writing entire books about what Hemingway drank in the Ritz and what Amis would put away over lunch at the Garrick.

You don't find that many recipes for food created by scribblers, though. Perhaps it is, as Amis said, that a large glass can supply "that final burst of energy at the end of the day" or else booze silences the vinegary voice in your head that says "you can't write that" in a way coq au vin never will. Either way, you don't often find a writer's recipe. So when you do it is a surprise.

It felt like a mini triumph – admittedly one shared by quite a few others – when I read that amongst the many papers Ernest Hemingway left to the John F Kennedy Presidential Library, there is a full, typed-out recipe for the perfect burger. A burger! It seems so down-home, so intimate, the product of a relaxed moment at home, rather than some show-boating drink recipe (his ubiquitous Hemingway Daiquiri famously has no sugar and double the rum of the regular version).

As it is the anniversary of his birth on 21 July, I thought I'd eat in his honour so here I am in my kitchen wrist-deep in mince.

The first thing to note about the Hemburger is that it is rather simple and unadorned, uncustomarily so (just read his shopping lists which are also in the museum). Or at least it would have been in the 1950s – a slight problem is presented by the fact that the Spice Island Mei Yen Powder, one of the fulcrums, has been discontinued. But a recipe online reveals it to be made up of 9 parts salt, 9 parts MSG, and 9 parts sugar. There are shades of the double-rum daiquiri here, but we are mercifully only using 2/3 teaspoon with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce.

So, after kneading my beef, scattering in the 2 cloves of garlic, onion, sage and Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning which a pal had sent from America, and then throwing in the wine, relish and a single egg, I moulded the beef in my hand. It felt as cold and as firm as dough.

Next came cooking. I always grill my burgers, but Papa had different ideas. Burning hot pan meets meat patty. The scent of charred meat, and spices browning in the pan swirls up, filling my nostrils and kitchen. It smells good. But I don't have long to savour it, because Hemingway liked his burger "crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy" – it comes out of the pan and into the waiting arms of a brioche bun.

It looks superb, a muscleman's burger. And the taste? Deep and earthy peppered with spice, and soft and oozing in the centre. It was, one might say, a Moveable Feast.

The height of fine dining

With prices as high as the tower which houses it, many punters have been put off Hutong, the upscale Chinese joint in the Shard. But that may be about to change with its new dim sum lunch menu. You pay £28 and get five dishes made up of four elegant dim sums. Still sound expensive? Consider this: a ticket for the Shard viewing platform is £24.95.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments