Fast Food

From Mongolia to America: Unknown history of hamburger

Wherever you are in the world, the first food that comes to mind when talking about fast food is hamburgers. One of the oldest foods in history with its origins dating back to the 13th century and being born in Germany, the hamburger became a world-famous classic as soon as it arrived in North America.

The origin of this food, which is associated with American culture, explains why it is so popular.

Considered a kind of hamburger expert, American George Motz has been traveling all over the United States for the last 20 years, trying different types of hamburgers. Motz, who dedicates his life to hamburger culture, shot a documentary called “Hamburger America” in 2004. Claiming to have eaten more than 20,000 hamburgers, Motz thinks the origin of the food dates back to the 13th century.

Two German burgers called 'frikadellen' with crispy onions and potato salad. (Shuttertock Photo)
Two German burgers called “frikadellen” with crispy onions and potato salad. (Shuttertock Photo)

Stating that the hamburger originated in Mongolia when Mongols and Tatars were fighting, the expert explains that the Tatars kept the raw mutton under their saddles all day, and spiced the meat to eat it when they set up camp.

Then the mutton reached ship crews and ports along the Baltic Sea, then headed westward toward parts of Europe.

Hamburger meat took its closest modern-day form in Germany. Arriving at the port of Hamburg, the dish was made from chopped cooked beef, today’s “frikadellen,” instead of raw mutton.

While waiting for their ships, German migrants started to eat meatballs called frikadellen because it was both cheap and delicious. When the Germans traveled to the U.S. in the mid-19th century, they brought the recipe for this dish with them to the new world.

Two large grilled chicken burgers. (Shutterstock Photo)
Two large grilled chicken burgers. (Shutterstock Photo)

As the word “frikadellen” meant nothing to Americans, the Germans decided to change its name to “Hamburg-style meat” or “Hamburg meat” to make the dish more local, according to Moltz.

Frikadellen, the early form of hamburgers, was generally served with potato salad.

While it is stated that German farmers introduced Hamburg meat to Americans, it is thought that another fast-food icon, the hot dog, inspired people to put Hamburg meat in bread. Still, the first person who did it is a mystery.

The Hamburg sandwiches, or hamburgers, soon became a popular food in America over the years and started to be sold in many restaurants and cafes. The hamburger, which emerged as a replacement for local food of Germany, has managed to remain an American classic for 100 years.

Pointing out that factory workers often ate hamburgers during the Industrial Revolution, Motz emphasized that hamburgers are a very important part of working-class life.

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