AP "hamburger" story; Athens (TX) is "Big A"?
Bapopik at AOL.COM
Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sat Jan 27 03:27:41 UTC 2007
FWIW, here's another "hamburger" story today from the Associated Press. As
usual, no food scholar or language scholar was interviewed on the origin of
"hamburger"...I wrote letters to the editor of the Capital Times (WI) and New
Haven Register (CT), but I guess neither was printed.
Athens, Texas is the "Big A"? (See end of this story.)
Where's the beef from? Texas town says burgers began here
By PAUL J. WEBER
Associated Press Writer
January 26, 2007, 5:31 PM EST
(http://www.amny.com/news/local/wire/ny-bc-ct--burgerbattle0126jan26,0,2665356.story?coll=ny-ap-regional-wire#topix) ATHENS, Texas -- Peggy Gould, a
fourth-generation Texan so proud of this East Texas town that she changed her
license plate to "ATHENS," says real hamburgers are piled with onions, aren't
disgraced with ketchup _ and sure as heck weren't invented in Connecticut.
That's the little northern state that has dared challenge claims that Athens
is the true birthplace of the beloved American institution.
"What do Yankees know about beef?" said Gould, poking fun at Connecticut's
"dairy cows" as she sized up her quarter-pound, mayonnaise-slathered patty
during lunch at Ole West Bean N' Burger Company. "I think it's kind of absurd."
Hers are fighting words, but as far as some of the 12,500 folks who live
here figure, Connecticut picked the fight. And Athens isn't backing down from
its claim that the hamburger was invented here _ not in New Haven, Conn. That's
where Ken Lassen, the owner of Louis' Lunch, says his grandfather created the
symbol of American cuisine in 1900 when a man rushed in and asked for
something he could eat on the run.
Lassen says Louis' Lunch is officially designated by the Library of Congress
as the burger birthplace, and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano says the city
recently found a patent from the late 1880s for a broiler used to cook
"The claims from Texas are clearly wrong because they have no documentation
of anything. Everything is legend. Which of course is the Texas way of
creating truth," DeStefano said. "To Texas I say, 'Eat my hamburger."'
The burger battle began when Texas Republican state Rep. Betty Brown filed a
bill in November that would declare Athens as "the original home of the
"I wouldn't want to be the lawmaker who votes against it," Brown said.
Wisconsin and Ohio have also entered the food fight. But the challengers
aren't changing opinions in Athens, a town about 70 miles south of Dallas that's
surrounded by pastures of cattle bound to become ground beef and is the
one-time home to President Bush.
"They can be the home of the patty melt, but we're the hamburger" said
Athens Mayor Randy Daniel, of New Haven's objections. "They've got Yale and their
Athens' case goes like this: In the early 1880s, Fletcher Davis sold "meat
sandwiches" at the town square enjoyed by the city's most prominent family,
the Murchisons, whose descendants eventually became the original owners of the
The Murchisons later paid Davis' trip to St. Louis for the 1904 World's
Fair, where he unveiled the sandwich with the patty stacked with a cucumber
pickles, a blend of mayonnaise and mustard and a slice of Bermuda onion to the
rest of the country.
In 1984, Athens installed a commemorative marker at the spot where Davis
peddled his sandwiches across from the courthouse. The town also has an annual
hamburger cookoff and, as Brown says, "it just seems natural that a hamburger
would come from Texas."
But that's bull, according Louis' Lunch in Connecticut, which says it cooked
up the first burger in 1900.
Also working against Athens: Its historical case is mostly cobbled from
hand-me-down tales gathered by late Texas author Frank X. Tolbert. A McDonald's
Corp. spokeswoman also says the company can't validate that its Hamburger
University once sided with Athens' hamburger history, as stated in Brown's bill.
Also, the plaque in the town square isn't a marker granted by the Texas
Historical Commission and its stringent documentation requirements. Instead, the
plaque was commissioned by the city's chamber of commerce.
But that doesn't bother Athens citizens, who point out holes in the
histories boasted by other cities. Brown, a five-term lawmaker, said she still
remains certain that the burger is a Texas creation.
Her constituents in Athens, where a hamburger yo-yo costs 50 cents and a
hamburger-shaped candle sells for $14 at the city's welcome center, are equally
"America's food," Gould said, "from 'Big A.' Pretty good stuff."
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