America's love affair with cheeseburgers


July 28, 2010 at 2:28 a.m.
Updated July 30, 2010 at 2:30 a.m.

Forget apple pie. In 2010, there's nothing quite as American as a cheeseburger. Juicy, gooey, meaty cheeseburgers.

Oh, go ahead and drool. You know you want to.

This is why your friendly neighborhood newspaper (that's us, by the way) decided to hold a blind taste contest to determine which local restaurant made the best cheeseburgers. Yes, in the interest of hard-hitting, investigative, watchdog journalism, we went undercover and pigged out to bring you the information you need to make an informed cheeseburger decision.

Hey, it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

Of course, during this whole process, the natural question of just why are cheeseburgers so popular came up. I mean, these days, cheeseburgers are so popular they even have songs written about them. In fact, one of my proudest moments was when I learned the words to Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Ahem...

"I like mine with lettuce and tomato/Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes/Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer/Well good God Almighty which way do I steer"

Thank you, thank you. You're too kind. Be sure to tip your waitress.

Well, the roots of the cheeseburger go way back (sort of). While the original hamburger dates back to the 11th century, when the Mongols would carry flat meat patties on long horseback trips, the idea of which eventually spread to Hamburg, Germany, it took a whopping 1,000 years before some genius thought of slapping delicious, gooey cheese on said meat patty, according to (Oh yeah, there's a website devoted solely to cheeseburgers. God bless America).

Tracking down that genius, however, is easier said than done. One of the most pervasive claims is that the first cheeseburger was created between 1924 and 1926 by a chef named Lionel Sternberger in Pasadena, Calif. According to legend, Sternberger passed a homeless man one day who suggested he add a slice of cheese to his hamburger, according to the cheeseburger website (ain't technology grand).

Of course, other places have also claimed to be the home of the original cheeseburger, including Kaelin's Restaurant in Louisville, Ky. All we do know for a fact is that in 1935, Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver was awarded the trademark for the name "cheeseburger" (although apparently the guy never enforced this much).

So while the origins of the artery-clogging goodness we call cheeseburgers is shrouded in mystery, the fact remains that people, pretty much everywhere, love them (this reporter ... burp ... included). In fact, it's estimated that the average American eats 30 pounds of cheeseburgers a year.

The only question left is: I can haz cheezburger?

Related: Meet the judges of the Advocate cheeseburger contest

Advocast answers age-old question: Who makes the best cheeseburger?



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