The Hamburger: A History (American Icons Series)

Josh Ozersky

The Hamburger: A History (American Icons Series)

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. Spanning the years from the nineteenth century with its waves of European immigrants to our own era of globalization, the book recounts how German 'hamburg steak' evolved into hamburgers for the rising class of urban factory workers and how the innovations of the White Castle System and the McDonald's Corporation turned the burger into the Model T of fast food. The hamburger played an important role in America's transformation into a mobile, suburban culture, and today, America's favourite sandwich is nothing short of an irrepressible economic and cultural force. How this all happened, and why, is a remarkable story, told here with insight, humour, and gusto. 3.8 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
The Hamburger: A History (American Icons Series)

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Food & Drink, Society, Politics & Philosophy
Format Hardback
Pages 160
RRP £14.99
Date of Publication May 2008
ISBN 978-0300117585
Publisher Yale University Press
 

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. Spanning the years from the nineteenth century with its waves of European immigrants to our own era of globalization, the book recounts how German 'hamburg steak' evolved into hamburgers for the rising class of urban factory workers and how the innovations of the White Castle System and the McDonald's Corporation turned the burger into the Model T of fast food. The hamburger played an important role in America's transformation into a mobile, suburban culture, and today, America's favourite sandwich is nothing short of an irrepressible economic and cultural force. How this all happened, and why, is a remarkable story, told here with insight, humour, and gusto.

Reviews

The Times

Min Jin Lee

The Hamburger - a prime text worthy of inclusion in any self-respecting American Studies syllabus - is the ultimate history of this iconic yet humble meal and America's most famous culinary export... With his scholar's eye and enthusiast's love, Ozersky does something novel and savoury with the hamburger: he takes care to tell its story with integrity, and what a treat it is.

30/05/2008

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The Economist

The Economist

"This entertaining and informative book, which traces the burger's evolution from working man's snack during the Depression to symbol of American corporatism, is nothing less than a brief history of America in the 20th century."

24/04/2009

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The Sunday Times

Bee Wilson

Ozersky has a hyperbolic style, which helps his book zip along like a well-oiled drive-thru. Sometimes, though, he is OTT. A White Castle burger, he says, is “as artfully self-contained as a Homeric hexameter”, adding that the bun and the burger speak “of their symbiosis in the language of circumferential geometry”. Come again? There is, though, plenty to relish in Ozersky's monograph, and his enthusiasm comes into its own when he is contemplating the weird power of McDonald's...

01/06/2008

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The Observer

Francesca Segal

...This is far from the polemical hysteria of Fast Food Nation but ultimately, I couldn't help but wish for a little more analysis throughout. The facts happen to be interesting in their own right, but we are left alone with them to ponder What It All Means. It's possible the hamburger is too obvious, too hackneyed a vehicle to serve as the extended allegory for American consumerism I had expected of the book. But in any case, these days there is something terribly appealing about an engaging, concise little morsel of cultural history, the antithesis, indeed, of what the burger itself has come to signify.

08/06/2008

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The Guardian

Steven Poole

In this snack-sized meat patty, Ozersky is liable to say things like: "Each burger [is] as artfully self-contained as a Homeric hexameter." Is it really? ... The author rhapsodises about 1950s American teenage drive-in culture and takes grudging note of recent works of antiburgerology (Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me), while defending the hamburger as an eternal, heroic symbol of America. I finished the book and asked: "Where's the beef?"

05/07/2008

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