Something About Cheeseburgers…and Mongols…and a Homeless Man

I don’t think there’s any greater cheeseburger fan in the world than yours truly. There’s just something about that combination of ground beef (or moose if you’re very, very lucky), onion, mayo, lettuce and, of course, melted cheese, that makes my mouth water and my stomach growl, even when it’s full. I salivate at the sight—yea, the mere thought—of that meaty, condiment covered temptation.

I’m not alone in my insatiable love of cheesy beef on buns, either. All that juicy, sizzling browned ground and flowing cheese-melt, that lush green lettuce garnish…it’s downright pornographic to any fast-foodie. In fact, one well-known fast food chain serves up approximately 4600 cheeseburgers  every single minute, a cool 236 billion a year. That equates to a LOT of cheeseburger lovers!

But where did this commendable comestible come from? Who was the utter genius that originally introduced the revered cheeseburger to the world? If you’re thinking it was that clown MacDonald, you’re a few hundred years off the mark.

It all began with the early Mongols, who liked to snack on flat pats of meat as they marauded about the countryside. People in Moscow saw their culturally unique visitors eating the convenient munchables, and the rest was history. The lowly burger patty began to conquer the taste buds of the world one country at a time, carried to Hamburg, Germany by sailors, where it officially became known as a hamburger…go figure. The bun was a later addition, invented by an American named Walter Anderson, obviously a connoisseur of fine cuisine, who went on to found the world’s first burger chain. Yay Walter!

This brings us to what makes a burger the best thing since the Mongolian meat patty—cheese. As unlikely as it seems, this all-important garnish was the brain child of a homeless man, who apparently suggested it to early 1920’s chef Lionel Sternberger (yeah, I know). The latter subsequently claimed it as his own creation, placed it on his menu, and brought the cheeseburger to the masses. Whatever happened to the homeless guy is anyone’s guess.

So the next time you sit down to enjoy “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun,” spare a thought for the real heroes of hamburger history, and maybe spare some change for the guy sitting outside.