This Is Why It’s Called a Hamburger…Even Though There’s No Ham in It
by Matthew Gilligan
The word “hamburger,” used to describe the beef patty between a bun with endless toppings, has plenty of historical significance, none of which has to do with pork.
The ancient Romans were the first to create the burger in the 1st century, with ingredients such as minced meat, pepper, wine, and pine nuts.
By the 13th century, burgers were considered an on-the-go snack for Mongols riding across Asia, who would stash the raw meat beneath their saddles to tenderize it.
Burgers appeared again in the mid-18th century in The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, with a more advanced recipe of minced beef seasoned with suet, nutmeg, and garlic. And, by the way, the meat was raw. This was, by then, known as the “Hamburgh” sausage.
But why the “Hamburgh” name?
Well, it has less to do with pork than it does with Germany’s second-biggest city. Hamburg, a port town along the Elbe River, became home to this popular dish over the centuries, and when Germans emigrated to America, they brought the dish with them.
In the U.S., the hamburger is said to have come into being in 1885 when brothers Frank and Charles Menches put “Hamburg” meat in their sandwich instead of pork at a fair in… wait for it… Hamburg, New York.
Hamburg meat in a sandwich in Hamburg, New York?
However, the U.S. Library of Congress calls Louis Lassen of Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, the originator of the modern hamburger we know and love today.