What do Americans think of when they think of the hamburger? A robust, succulent spheroid of fresh ground beef, the birthright of red-blooded citizens? Or a Styrofoam-shrouded Big Mac, mass-produced to industrial specifications and served by wage slaves to an obese, brainwashed population? Is it cooking or commodity? An icon of freedom or the quintessence of conformity?
This fast-paced and entertaining book unfolds the immense significance of the hamburger as an American icon. Josh Ozersky shows how the history of the burger is entwined with American business and culture and, unexpectedly, how the burger’s story is in many ways the story of the country that invented (and reinvented) it.
The last of my "history of the world as seen through this food" book this month - and while cannot compare the majesty of the potato book, the hamburger is a worthy addition to this library. This books seems to come out of a series of concise books on the role of specific foods in culture and history. The hamburger story provides a window into the changing food production systems and eating habits of Americans, as well as the rise of the industrial fast-food system that was largely built around the hamburger.
I first experienced White Castle in college in St. Louis, a place that required minimal dollars and sobriety. If I had known the White Castle was the first mass market hamburger chain I might have thought of the experience of eating their mini burgers (sliders) somewhat differently. The story of McDonald's is beautifully told - both as a case study in post WWII capitalism and for the larger economic and social implications of mass-produced food. We have become so negative about McDonalds, with all of us reading the Omnivores Dilemma and Fast Food Nation (and watching Food Inc. and SuperSize Me etc.). It was good to read a book that explained the rise of McDonald's and the other fast food hamburger joints as a part of a larger story - one that we should not condemn even if we choose not to participate. Lovely writing, good length, and a necessary complement to our understanding of how we produce and consume our food.
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