The Burger's Savory History Began During The 1st Century

Is there anything more American than a burger? Pair it with french fries and a milkshake and you have what The Atlantic calls "enduring icons of American cuisine." The burger symbolizes the projected image of the U.S. as a place of abundant convenience, where all one needs to do is sit down at a diner booth or go to the drive-through to have a hot meal served to them in a matter of minutes. 

But is the burger really all that American? While it may symbolize certain characteristics of the country, history suggests an origin that reaches much farther into the past than our modern American epoch. According to History Hit, we need to look to the Romans to ascertain the beginnings of what we now consider an American classic. Though humans had been domesticating cattle for thousands of years prior, the Roman Empire were among the first civilized societies to take minced meat and form it into round patties. 

Renditions of this first century recipe seem to have followed through European history from the 12th century Germans to the 18th century English. However, the Romans appear to be the first to have written down a formal recipe, per Food and Wine. Though the ingredients are different than those in our modern burgers, one glance at this ancient recipe brings reminds us that while history progresses, some things remain the same.

Isicia omentata — the big mac of Rome

In the world's oldest cookbook, the "Apicius De Re Coquinaria," there's a recipe called Isicia Omentata, which details the makings of the burger of Ancient Rome. Calling for minced meat to be combined with pepper, wine, pine nuts, and Garum — a rich Roman fish sauce — the mixture was formed into patties and cooked over fire. Isicia Omentata's ability to be made up quickly led to them becoming a popular street food. The patties were particularly enjoyed in Great Britain, where Rome kept a large, occupying force along Hadrian's Wall near the modern Scottish border (via Museum Crush).

It is unclear whether Isicia Omentata were ever served in between slices of bread, though they very well could have been. However, History Hit notes that successive centuries were able to build upon the foundation left by the Romans. The Hamburg sausage — a patty mixed with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper — of Germany is a perfect example. The sausage was brought over to the States in the 19th century with the arrival of German immigrants. The immigrant workers, in need of a quick bite, began taking their sausages between pieces of bread, thereby creating an easily transportable sandwich. There's a reason we call them hamburgers, folks.

Several competing stories exist for which state or immigrant class created the hamburger in America, per History. However, it is clear that throughout the centuries numerous cultures have been influenced by the Roman's example. They gave us the burger. Thanks, Romans.