Hamburger – A Global History by Andrew F. Smith – review

Hamburger – A Global History by Andrew F. Smith – review

Reaktion Books is a publisher that has presented some of the most worthwhile food-related books around. They have just added a new collection of books to their list and you’ll want these if you have ever boasted of having a love of food. The Edible Series has three titles at the moment (Hamburger, Pizza and Pancake) but more will be added soon.

Hamburger A global history Hamburger – A Global History is a small-format book but it has a quality feel to it and a wealth of historic and iconic illustrations. The author Andrew F. Smith is a hamburger aficionado but obviously doesn’t spend all his time in fast-food joints. He has found time to pen The Encyclopaedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, and he edited The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, and teaches culinary history at the New York School, New York.

Either you love or loath the ubiquitous burger but we probably all agree that it’s here to stay. So the question is “Why is it here?” and why is “here” all over the world? Hamburger – A Global History considers not only the nutritional nature of the patties but their social impact. I doubt that any food product has caused more outrage or adoration than these ever-present meat-filled buns.

At the time of publishing, McDonalds boasts sales of over 100 billion hamburgers, which works out to be about 16 hamburgers for every person alive in the world. The statistics are mind-blowing! The hamburger has however been an American classic since the 1890s and was on sale in every diner, cafe and restaurant in the US by the 1930s.

Did you know, dear reader, that the first commercial hamburgers sold outside the USA were served in Paris? They were served to expats in the 1920s. I note that a “Macdo” is still the food of choice for many visiting Americans. Furthermore, The McAloo Tikki Burger is the best selling burger in India! The first burger chain in India was Nirula’s in the 1950’s. Their menu included Paneer Burger, Mutton Maniac Burger, French Flip Burger (chicken) and Crazy Pea Burger (made from dried peas).

We in the UK preferred our fast food to be a little slower than Mcdonalds so embraced the Wimpy Bar. These are a dying breed of burger restaurants with an unexpected touch of civilisation. You get a real plate with real cutlery served by a waiter who is often real and you can wash your meal down with a nice cuppa tea…with a saucer!

Hamburger – A Global History offers us a comprehensive exploration of the ever popular fast food and considers the future. It’s a thoroughly entertaining read and a “must read” for anyone who has either an interest in food in general or who has concerns over the globalization of meat-based fast food.

Hamburger – A Global History
Author: Andrew F. Smith
Published by: Reaktion Books
Price: £8.99
ISBN 978-1-86189-390-1


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018