The Burger. It’s basically bread, beef and a bit of salad, so how is it that the humble hamburger has so many varieties and can either be the snack of the gods or the worst truck stop artery clogger? I think that to fully appreciate the complexities of the modern burger, we need to step back in time and quickly explore the meat-alution of the Western World’s favourite snack.
Like with most things, the Americans are insistent that they invented the hamburger way back in the 19th century. Contrary to this assumption, there is evidence from cookbooks and historic writings that Romans, Mongols and Germanic Tribes used to combine beef and bread (with salad) as a ‘fast food’ snack for soldiers on the move. The Mongols even used to cook their meat by placing it under the saddle and cooking with the friction of the ride. But we’ll ignore recorded history like most Americans do and give credit to the good old U. S. of A. If they didn’t invent it, they have certainly claimed the burger as their own.
The ‘modern’ hamburger, that is a burger not cooked using a galloping horse, has been in force since around 1885 and apparently came into being when an industrious young chap somewhere in the hinterlands put ‘hamburg’ meat (a soft meat patty recipe introduced to the U.S. by German immigrants) between bread as one of his customers was in a rush.
Roughly 50 years later in 1934, and the brilliantly named Gus Belt founded Steak ‘n Shake in Illinois. His concept was to sell the finest burgers and shakes at a time when the hamburger was no longer a snack on the move, but something to be savoured. He even used to wheel in barrels of steaks and grind the meat in front of his customers to prove how ‘prime’ the ingredients were.
Another 80 years on and Steak ‘n Shake is now firmly established throughout America and is currently expanding into Europe, more specifically into Playa d’en Bossa. The ‘joint’ is smack bang in the middle of the party strip consisting of Ushuaia and Space, and is not hard to spot as the big red front looms into view. I wander up to the ordering till and quickly ponder my options. It seems only right that I should order the signature double cheeseburger with a strawberry shake, and the gorgeous manager Vanesa kindly explains to me that the UFO contraption that I have been given will buzz and light up when the food is ready.
The contraption starts bleeping and dancing around the table, along with about five others in the restaurant. I see a game forming in my head, but decide against going down that road and go collect my grub. I start off with the fries, and they are crisp and still have bits of skin on – the sure sign of a chip with class.
Onto the shake, it’s thick and cold and delicious with whipped cream and layers of crunchy sweet stuff sprinkled on top. My only advice here is to take your time as it’s amazing how quickly your brain can freeze when chugging down an ice cold shake.
And now onto the main star of the show, the burger itself, and it’s what you expect from an institution that’s been doing this for 80 odd years. The meat is soft and dripping with juice, the cheese is even softer and the salad is crisp and fresh. It’s the bun though that wins it for me, both soft and crunchy at the same time. Before I know it I’ve finished and I’m absolutely stuffed. Did people really eat this on the move as a nutritional snack? I’m not sure I can stand-up for at least 10 minutes let alone ride a horse. I’m actually quite content with just digesting the food and digesting the interesting sights of Playa d’en Bossa walking past, and my lordy there are some interesting sights indeed. Actually I might get another shake…