As far as I’m concerned, few things in this life are as satisfying as a good cheeseburger. Now, your definition of “good” may (and probably does) vary from mine. My personal ideal is the simple, old-fashioned, Jimmy Buffett-style burger: a juicy, medium-well-done patty on a buttery toasted bun; cheddar or American cheese; a big leaf of lettuce (none of this finely chopped McRoughage crap); a ripe, flavorful tomato; onion (sliced into rings or at least crescents; again, none of the teeny-tiny shard things you get at many fast-fooderies); the holy trifecta of condiments, i.e., mayo-ketchup-mustard; a pickle spear on the side along with a heap of crispy krinkle-cut fries; and all of it washed down with an icy Coke (or my more recent obsession, iced tea) or a good beer… and no, I’d probably better not go off on a tangent about what constitutes “good” beer, because that’s a whole other blog entry. But however you like your burgers, I’ll bet it’s never occurred to you that it wasn’t really possible to enjoy one until relatively recently in human history. It certainly hadn’t occurred to me.
But there’s a cat named Waldo Jaquith who has considered the problem, and his findings are… provocative:
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors–in all likelihood, a couple of dozen–and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.
Just something to think about the next time you’re feeling (as I frequently do) like that whole Industrial Revolution might not have been the best idea. I mean, who really cares if Five Guys is superior to In-N-Out, or if you (like me) prefer a local mom-and-pop cafe burger (when I can find them)… at least we have the option of arguing over such things! Seriously, this is an issue that irreparably skews that whole “which time period would you like to live in?” question for me.
And now, it’s off to dinner… three guesses what I’m in the mood to eat…