The Fried 5-Cent Burger Cooked Up During The Great Depression

The Great Depression lasted from 1929 to 1939 (via Britannica) and severely impacted the quality of life of people around the world. During this catastrophic period of economic uncertainty, food was scarce, so sometimes, it was necessary to get resourceful in order to feed your family. With many Americans unemployed, meals were stretched, eating leftovers was inevitable, and charitable breadlines went on for blocks (per Encyclopedia).

Unusual and inexpensive ingredients were often put together to make the most out of what was available. The Great Depression gave birth to the creation and popularization of dishes like water pie, meatloaf, grilled cheese sandwiches, and even fun-sized candy. One particular staple dish in Mississippi got a major boost during these trying times and remains popular to this day. Despite its well-liked status, you may have never heard of it. Everybody loves a good burger, and the humble origins of this unique recipe might just foster a new appreciation for just how creative people can get in their kitchens.

Slugs not included

According to What's Cooking America, slugburgers (originally called Weeksburgers) were first sold around 1917. Their inventor, John Weeks, brought his recipe from Chicago to Corinth, Mississippi, and opened up a shack on wheels (similar to today's food truck) to sling his burgers for 5 cents apiece. According to Visit Mississippi, the name "slugburger" likely comes from the correlation between the burger's price and the slang word for nickel: slug.

The Sip Magazine reports one thing that makes slugburgers different from other burgers is the recipe uses an extender, or filler, that produces a more substantive burger with less ground beef or pork. In John Weeks' original recipe, he blended the meat with potato flakes. The Sip adds that instead of cooking them over a grill or griddle, slugburgers are typically deep-fried in oil or lard, giving them a crispy exterior. Since slugburgers hit the market, the recipe has evolved with the times. According to Southern Living, instead of potato flakes, homemade slugburgers are now typically made with flour and/or cornmeal, while some restaurants use soy grits or soy meal.

Today, there's clear evidence that the slugburger is just as popular as ever. Since 1988, the town where the famous burger originated has held an annual Slugburger Festival (via Corinth Area CVB). The weekend event includes musical performances, a Miss Slugburger competition, and of course, plenty of the Depression-era burgers that have had incredible staying power.