Desiree Koh's Reviews > Hamburger: A Global History

Hamburger by Andrew F. Smith
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's review
Mar 27, 2010

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Read from March 16 to 27, 2010

If you are going to write a short (120+ pages) book about the hamburger - that untouchable bastion of meat and bread - then make it worthwhile, I say. I knew most of the information in here, but enjoyed some new trivia and details, particularly the evolution of the Hamburg steak from restaurant offering to Depression-era lunch truck cheap eat. However, no matter how strenuous a hold McDonald's has on the fast food materialization of the hamburger, I didn't quite think the chunk of pages devoted to that corporation was warranted. Thus, I was not surprised to see a few nuggets repeated in various chapters - it felt like Smith ran out of information at times, and didn't quite tap into other avenues of resources. For example, I was astounded he completely left out the Maid Rite chain, which also claims to have invented the hamburger. Theirs are served with white buns clasping loose ground beef in between and once flourished along the Mississippi. That, to me, is as important to include as the rest of the other chains described.

This "Global History" series of books, short, bite-sized narrations of how popular foods came to arrive at gluttonous glory, were meant, I believe, to be witty and digestible in a snap. The "Hamburger" edition falls really short of the "Pancake" one by Ken Albala, which was such a syrupy delight. If you knew nothing about hamburgers, you might imagine it was best eaten at McDonald's - what about the current revival in gourmet renderings? Finally, the pictures are just awful. It was like a guy walked into some of the places to take a picture of the hamburger setting, and forgot his initial mission as he turned his attention to chomping down his hamburger instead. Smith might very well have made the same mistake in writing this book.

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