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Dale’s Daily Data: Hamburger

We call it hamburger, but it doesn’t have any ham. How come? One version says a merchant from Hamburg, Germany on a trip to Asia noticed that nomads would store salt-cured meat under their saddles to soften it and often it would be ground to bits. The nomads would scrape together the meat, add spices and eat it. So this merchant returns to Germany and introduces this type of meat where cooks would broil it and call it Hamburg meat.

German immigrants brought the recipe to America and exactly where the first hamburger was introduced has always been in dispute. Some say the first use of the term was at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City. There’s no proof of that though. Seymour, Wisconsin claims itself the hamburger capital of the world on claims that Charlie Nagreen introduced the first hamburger at the county fair in 1885.

Closer to home in Hamburg, New York also in 1885, Frank and Charles Menches served their famous pork sausage sandwiches at the Erie County Fair but when they ran out of pork sausage they used ground beef instead. Since the fair is in Hamburg it made sense to call their new sandwich a hamburger.

In 1921 a young cook from Wichita, Kansas came up with the idea of a hamburger restaurant. He convinced an investor to provide the money to open what became the first White Castle restaurant.

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