Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Who cares where the burger was born?

There’s been a whole lot of hooey lately about where the burger was born. On one side, you have Louis' Lunch of New Haven, who’s gone so far as to get the Library of Congress to validate its burger boast. On the other side, you have State Rep. Betty Brown of Texas arguing that the first burger was served in Athens, TX. She’s even proposed a state bill to codify this claim.

Well, who cares? To me, it’s all pure nonsense made in the name of pride. The real question is where would you rather eat a burger today? Texas or Connecticut? I’m not saying that there aren’t good burgers in Connecticut, but check out this old New York Times article by William Grimes. In it, he says that burgers are to Texas as croissants are to France. “It's a symbol, a necessity and a triumph, a part of the cultural patrimony so tightly woven into the fabric of Texas life that Texans themselves do not even remark on it until they are presented with the gray-tinged, underfurnished, suspiciously geometric hamburger that the rest of America lives with.”

Connecticut can have its provenance, but let Texas have its “cultural patrimony.” Face it, no one is ever really going to know the exact moment and place the burger was invented. So let’s just think about where we’d want to eat a good burger today. I know where I'm going, and it's not New Haven.

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Shawnda said...

Ha! Nice post. You're right, it doesn't matter... at least that's what I'm saying on the outside. On the inside I'm giggling and busting out a chorus of "Texas, Our Texas."

adam said...

I'm not sure if it's a good idea to let Texans believe that the burger originated here. We'd never let the world forget it.

melissa mcgee said...

i for one, am going with texas where burgers are concerned. i've never been to connecticut, so i've never eaten a burger there. but i've certainly eaten more than my fair share in texas, and i can tell you with no uncertainty that DAMN IT we've got some good burgers goin' on.

you've inspired me to the point of madness; if my car weren't completely iced over i'd be heading to whataburger right now.

what say we leave the ICE to connecticut? they can have it.

matt said...

I agree with everything you've said.

As a newscaster said just yesterday "well, I'm not sure who gets to make the claim, but they're not known as the Connecticut Longhorns."

Made me laugh :)

Nicole said...

Don't knock the Louis' Lunch burger till you've tried it.

I have had burgers in CT, NY, LA, NV, TX, LA, and GA. I can say with confidence that one of the finest burgers you can get is the Louis' Lunch burger in New Haven. I miss them terribly.

My other favorite burger is right here in NYC at the Shake Shack. MMMM. But the LL vs. SS burgers are two different beasts, that can hardly be compared. One is highly evolved with the best beef and perfectly ripe tomatoes - the other is the burger's wild ancestor, still made in a furnace that's 100 years old with onions that are melted into the meat and a center that is bloody rare.

I want to do a food tour of New Haven one day for my foodie NYC friends. I miss Bar's beers, the pizza at Moderns, and Louis' Lunch. And then, of course, there's Mother's Kitchen, La Virgen de Guadeloupe, Sandra's, Atticus, Koffee?....

Kristen said...

My hubby makes the BEST burgers... I think I'll have mine right at home :)

Homesick Texan said...

Shawnda--I was singing "The Eyes of Texas!"

Adam--Good point!

Melissa--Writing this post drove me to "I want Whataburger NOW" madness as well. And what's up with all the ice in Texas? Crazy!

Matt--Ha! Connecticut Longhorns sounds ridiculous indeed! Do they even have cattle ranches there?

Nicole--Well I'd definitely love a food tour of New Haven--I must admit I've never been to Louis' Lunch nor tried any of the famous New Haven pizzas. And Shake Shack is my favorite NYC burger too--I'm DYING that it's closed for 3 more months!

Kristen--How fortunate you don't have to go far for your favorite burger!

Julie said...

I just want to know if there's any truth to the rumor that clam pizzas actually originated in Texas.

Homesick Texan said...

Julie--Nah, pizza's from Arkansas!

bill said...

Well, here's the deal.

I've lived in Texas. Lotta nice people, can't (usually) beat the weather, and except for the dry towns, which truly amazed me, it wasn't bad.

Haven't live in Conn, which I like to refer to as ConnecdiDotts, but I grew up in New Yawk, and ate many a burger there.

So either is okay with me, with a slight edge to Nyawk because I can at least get an egg cream there, and people in Texas look at you funny if you mention them there.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in New Haven for the past 20 years. I was in Louis Lunch exactly one time when a friend took me. The owner is an very obnoxious person. The burger is steamed (!) and grey, and served on white bread. There was a sign to the effect that if you asked for catsup you would be thrown out. In all, it was one of the least pleasant experiences I have had out here. It is a mystery to me how they stay in business, but it is the least expensive food in the area.

On the other hand, New Haven does have much better pizza than Texas.

I am actually not signing my name here because I don't need any local flac. Normally I would.

Robb Walsh said...

Further Texas Burger Considerations:

verily said...

You know...I've never ever considered that burgers might be a homegrown food. I've certainly eaten my fair share of amazing burgers from joints here in Austin and in San Antonio, but I always figured Texans were just good at cooking them up.

I don't think it really matters much though. We already lay claim to a few cuisines.

Homesick Texan said...

Bill--Heh, you're right, not too many places sell egg creams. I reckon in a pinch you could grab a bottle of YooHoo and mix it with seltzer.

Anon--Hmmmmm, that does sound miserable. And yes, I wouldn't advise ordering pizza in Texas, it's usually pretty awful.

Robb--Thanks for the link, what an awesome round-up! Next time I'm in Houston I'll have to drive to Huntsville to try the Killer Burger (and see that scary clown!)

Verily--I agree, we don't need the burger, we have enough good stuff to lay claim to already.

Draconian Clown said...

The problem with burgers outside Texas is the bun. In the east, there is a terrible thing called a Kaiser Roll. Combine this stale clump and bread with a burger and it is a disaster every time.

Texan in DC said...

I just got turned on to your site. I love it! I've only been out of Texas for a year and I miss the food terribly!

Regarding the burger discussion, I have to agree that Texas has the best, juiciest burgers around. My dad makes a mean burger and my parents find it amusing to call me whenever my dad grills to gloat.

Speaking of grills...what is it with people up here and their gas grills?!? I think that's why Texas burgers are better: we have charcoal grills to cook them on!

Tommy said...

Some interesting comments.Thanks for writing about the burger.It deserves the coverage.

Last fellow mentioned gas vs charcoal grills.

That is a no brainer. Any person who can peel potatoes knows a better burger is cooked on a hardwood charcoal grill.

I have seen FoodTV specials on the New Haven joint. The burger looks kinda lame and is it served on toast with onions and tomatoes.

Lastly, anyone who tries selling you on the idea of extra lean groundbeef is spoiling the fun.

Anonymous said...

them burgers is good!

Jim said...

"I have seen FoodTV specials on the New Haven joint. The burger looks kinda lame and is it served on toast with onions and tomatoes."

Seeing FoodTV specials is not eating. Until you eat those are great burgers. I don't care who wants to play the 'we invented it" game - all I care about is "Is it good?" Louis Lunch is some damn fine eating, period.

Taste before you crticize. That should be a universal rule regardless of what food or region is under discussion.

BTW: found this blog through Slashfood - I am so completely hooked on the food porn and the fantastic recipes. I want to eat every single thing I've read about so far. :)

EVille said...

Just where does Hamburg, Germany fit into the hamburger story? Or for that matter Frankfurt in the frank story? LOL.

Origin aside, for me growing up in Texas with Yankee parents there were always three distinctive variations of the common ground beef sandwich:
1) Yankee burgers consisting of a fat grilled patty, ketchup and sliced onion on toasted white bread. Yum!
2) Texas burgers, or drive-in burgers, consisting of one or two thin grilled patties, mustard, chopped onions, pickles, lettuce and tomato on a fluffy bun. Whataburger still does them this way. Yumm!
3) Fancy burgers with huge patties (a la Chilis), or lots of variations but all good. Mayonnaise is common with these. And chili. The best fancy burger though was at the Neiman-Marcus Zodiac Room, a simple grilled sirloin patty on French roll with mayo served with consomme and a popover. Yummm!

Of course there are other tasty variations from the fast food chains, but these are the big three for me. At cookouts I always struggle to decide which kind of burger to make and usually end of going through the line three times to get one of each! Yummmmmmm!

Toni said...

If any of you ever get to the Lufkin, Texas area try a burger at Mom's Diner on Frank Ave.

Best burgers ever!

Mitch said...

The best burger is the one I'm about to start grilling on my back deck. I decided to grind my own meat (chuck) and then add some ground chorizo to the mix, with some salt and pepper. I'm gonna grill them up to a perfect medium rare, and top 'em off with some nice melty cheese and some homemade ketchup.

Even my picky eater boys may go for these bad boys!

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