Thursday, November 25, 2021

Early history of hamburger: a food for the poor

Many people assumed that ground beef was dirty and during the early 1900s the hamburger was considered “a food of the poor,” polluted and unsafe to eat.

Restaurants rarely served hamburgers; they were served at lunch carts parked near factories, at circuses carnivals and state fairs. It was widely believed that ground beef was made from rotten old meat full of chemical preservatives. Dishonest butchers sold ground beef that was really a mixture of spoiled meat, fat scraps, and animal parts that no one would choose to eat. To most Americans, ground beef was an unsafe food.

Not only was considered “food for the poor” but it also had a rather dubious reputation; the burger was associated with criminal activity. In 191o, Alexander J. Moody, a wealthy baker from Chicago, died after somebody put poison in his burger. One year later, a Chicago pie maker was poisoned the same way. Similar murder stories appeared in newspapers across the United States. The police were never able to solve the case.

The widespread fear of hamburgers caused a great deal of frustration among butches. They liked to grind leftover pieces of beef not hamburger meat. They liked selling every scrap of meat in the store. They didn’t want to waste any of it.

Hamburger sandwiches might have remained a lower-class food with a bad reputation had it not been for J. Walter Anderson, a short order cook in Wichita, Kansas, in 1916 Anderson had saved enough money to purchase an old shoe repair building and converted it into a hamburger for nickel.

He arranged for beef to be delivered twice a day, and sometimes more often and he ground his own beef so that customer could watch him do so through glass windows.
Early history of hamburger: a food for the poor

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