Hamburger America

Some of the country’s biggest culinary talents went head to head at the Amstel Light Burger Bash, billed as one of the prime events of the 2013 Miami Beach Food and Wine Festival, held on Feb. 22.

Celebrity chef and talk show host Rachael Ray hosted the Burger Bash’s cook-off. Local restaurants, such as Charm City Burger Company in Deerfield Beach and Lokal Burgers in Miami, squared off against big names in the food industry, from around the country, like Food Network chefs Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri.

The event’s popularity illustrates America’s fascination with the hamburger. From Five Guys to In-N-Out burger, numerous hamburger restaurant chains are littered across the nation, inviting beef connoisseurs to savior the taste of a good hamburger.

Many people wonder why there is such a fondness for the burger in the U.S., as burgers have joined the likes of hot dogs and baseball to become integral to Americana culture.

Perhaps it is our fondness for beef and the fact that it’s quick to make. Plus, it can be eaten on the go. Unlike Europeans, most Americans don’t spend much time dining together. We are married to our vehicles and hamburgers are easy to order at the drive through window. We can eat our food without ever getting out of the car.

To me, there is nothing better than a big juicy burger, perfectly seasoned with tomato, onion and pepper jack cheese on a lightly toasted bun. Throw some baked beans and chips on a plate and you have a great meal. Wash it all down with an ice cold drink and you have a BBQ.

Hamburgers are easy to make and you can put so many different things on them to change the taste. That’s why the hamburger is such a commercial success. There is basically nothing that you cannot put on a hamburger; from the cheeseburger to the barbecue burger, hamburgers can change more positions than a politician on Capitol Hill.

One particular popular trend are burgers named after states and inspired by that state’s culture. For example, the California burger has cheese, guacamole and bacon. The Hawaii burger is often topped with teriyaki sauce, derived from the Asian-American culture of the island, and pineapples, to give it some Hawaiian tropical flavor.

My personal favorite is the Carolina burger, which brings a southern twist to the hamburger. Topped with cheddar cheese, chili, coleslaw, onions and mustard, the burger is as tasty as it gets.

America’s burger obsession has even created a South Florida twist. Heavily influenced by the region’s Latin population, the Frita is a Cuban dish with a seasoned ground beef patty — which is sometimes mixed with chorizo, on Cuban bread topped with shoestring potatoes, lettuce, onions and a spiced ketchup sauce. It is delicious and is a good representation of the prevalent Cuban culture.

According to a Food Magazine study in 2010, Americans ordered 9.5 billion burgers. They also consumed 30.5 burgers per capita at restaurants and the burger was the no. 1 grilled food at home. This study was done in 2010; just imagine what the numbers are now.

With America’s love of the hamburger growing with each new generation, the burger will continue to capture the imagination of food-lovers young and old.

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