THE HUMBLE HAMBURGER
My Mother used to make rissoles when I was growing up and I adored them. Sadly I can't ask her now what she put in hers that made them so incredibly tasty but I know minced meat, breadcrumbs and onions were in evidence in the kitchen on a rissole day.
The chipper in my brother's time did mainly fish & chips and by the time I became a customer they offered hamburger and chips also. They weren't great but after a few pints, it was soakage. Perhaps older readers could confirm to me something that I heard and that is, in those days most chippers heated lumps of lard to deep fry in and that's why we remember everything tasting better before cooking oil took over. I suspect lard is what my Mom used to use.
In my last years at home with her I learned to appreciate good food as opposed to take-away stuff. Even so, some chippers were better than others in those pre-McDonald's days and the Italian ones tended to be the best of them. This became more important to me when I left home for Dublin and bedsit land in the seventies. In an effort to re-create home cooking but without the ability to do so, I bought frozen burgers, some onions and burger buns to cook on the two rings in the bedsit. The result was so vile and tasteless I went hunting for the best chipper locally.
Hamburgers as an item came up in conversation in the local on Sunday. One man said the history of them dated back to the Second World War and American GI's tasting this ground beef product in Hamburg while they were there and bringing home the recipe. The rest is history as the roadside diner became popular during the fifties on the new interstate highways all over the US. Television and Hollywood then brought it to our screens locally and the depiction of American culture spawned a demand for hamburgers, according to Uncle Sam. There's a short article here that shows just how popular and central the hamburger is to American life today.
Back to the Sunday morning high stool and another lad wondering how they are made. Suffocating my natural humility for a moment I volunteered the correct answer. You see, I'm a bit of an oracle when it comes to the home-made hamburger. As a single man for many years I experimented with and learned how to make a good burger. My audience on the other hand left their Mammies for their wives and many were unsure where the kitchen was located in their homes. So on with my story.
Every month or so now we get 2 Lbs of ground virgin beef, some onions and fresh garlic, breadcrumbs and tomato ketchup and with the addition of a couple of beaten eggs I have my mix. The lads were spellbound as I explained the need to get the right amounts of each ingredient in relation to the others. The resultant mix though can yield twelve whoppers or any amount you like of the smaller flatter variety. The seven euros for the meat gives the main course for twelve meals at least. And it is a convenience food because it's easy and quick to cook. I pop all twelve into freezer bags and then at breakfast on any day I grab one from the freezer and it's ready to go at dinnertime.
I have messed around a bit with it over the years, sometimes employing brown bread crumbs for crispness and red onions on other occasions. Experiments with pepper and thyme were tried and other flavors tried as well. I've also made one large blob out of the whole thing and fucked it in the oven as meatloaf to be carved in slices for Sunday dinner. We've even taken my famous hamburgers to barbecues on the beach in summer. And from a personal point of view in my domestic arrangement, it has the added plus that my kids hate them. This means more of them for yours truly.
I might even look again at lard for cooking having written this.