I recently watched an older episode of “Parks and Recreation.” It’s the episode where Ron Swanson and Chris Traeger have a competition to see who makes the better hamburger. Chris pulls out all the stops with seasoning, toppings, and sides to please the palate, whereas Ron simply cooks a plain ground beef burger and puts it on a bun – and wins. Sometimes less is more. Jimmy Buffet captured his love for the cheeseburger in his famous song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and Wimpy’s catch phrase from Popeye quickly caught on as “I”ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” So what is it about this food that has us salivating and including it on menus of virtually every American restaurant around?
I think part of the appeal of hamburgers is that they are familiar to everyone. When you go to a restaurant and you look at all the options, it makes choosing more difficult. However, with picking the Hamburger, you already know its a dependable option and will leave you feeling full and satisfied. It’s also the more economical choice when comparing it to say, seafood options or steak. Hamburgers are often paired with a heaping serving of chips or fries that will leave you feeling that you got your money’s worth in food. Hamburgers are also easy to eat. They don’t require you to cut into them, you just simply pick them up and shove them into your mouth.
The hamburger is a timeless meal. Restaurants are always competing to try and remaster the hamburger, adding fancier toppings, changing the meat from ground beef, to sirloin, Angus, and turkey. Even the vegetarians and vegans have their own meat-free options like the garden burgers and boca burgers which tried to emulate the familiar taste that you get when biting into a juicy hamburger. The hamburger and bun also serve as a template for anyone wishing to be innovative with their toppings and sides. You can add pretty much anything to it, and you still know its going to taste good.
Among the biggest reasons why hamburgers are America’s national food are because they are social and nostalgic food. They bring community in the sense that people often serve them at neighborhood barbeques and parties. They remind us of summertime, pool parties, and conversation with friends. They go great with beer, and they’re a crowd pleaser because everyone likes them. It also helps that they’re relatively inexpensive to make and can accommodate a plethora of people. People tend to stick with foods they already know they like; and as Americans, we know we can always count on the hamburger.
What’s your favorite hamburger restaurant?