The Globalization of Hamburgers and Fries

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The dish of hamburger and fries is considered by many US citizens to be as American as apple pie or baseball. The dish is served throughout the United States in homes, restaurants and sports venues. While many people think of hamburger and fries as an American dish, neither the ingredients nor items themselves originated in the United States. However, because of globalization and cultural diffusion, particularly relocation and expansion diffusion, hamburger and fries has become one of the most popular dishes in the United States.

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According to the Center of Plant and Animal Domestication Map, the ingredients used in hamburger and fries mainly come from the Mediterranean, East Africa and Southwest Asia.(Gettis et al. 2008). The beef used to make hamburgers comes from cattle, which originated in places like the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia; the wheat used to make buns comes from East Africa and Southwest Asia; lettuce is from the Mediterranean; onions are from Southwest Asia; and the potatoes used to make fries are from the Andean Uplands.(Gettis et al. 2008).

Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology (Globalization101.org, 2017). I consider hamburger and fries an expression of Globalization because neither hamburgers nor fires originated in the United States. It was through the interactions with people from other nations that Americans came to know this dish. Hamburgers became popular in the US because of our interactions with German immigrants in the 19th century. While there are several different stories about how hamburgers were introduced to America, most of the historians agree that the first version of the hamburger was made in Hamburg, Germany using expensive Hamburg beef from cattle. In the 19th century in Hamburg, the dish was not served as a sandwich. Instead, the Germans molded seasoned Hamburg beef into a patties and served them without bread. It was known as a Hamburg steak. When German immigrants relocated to the United States in the 19th century, some of the immigrants opened restaurants and served the original version of the Hamburg steak. However, hamburgers as we know them today, were created, in part, because of the Industrial Revolution. During the Industrial Revolution, many Americans worked in factories. During the factory lunch breaks, food vendors served Hamburg steaks to the factory workers. When the workers found it difficult to quickly eat the steaks while standing up, vendors began serving the steaks between two slices of bread (Avey, 2013). Thus, the hamburger was born as a result of relocation diffusion and the mechanism was migration.

If hamburgers came to the US by way of relocation diffusion, fries became popular as a result of expansion diffusion. Some historians argue that fries originated in France, but most agree that the Belgians were the first to fry potatoes. Fries were first introduced to America because of American soldiers’ interactions in Europe during World War I. During the War, American soldiers were served fries when they were stationed in Belgium. Because the Belgians who served them spoke French, the soldiers called them French Fries. When the soldiers returned home, they spread the recipe throughout the US, making French fries one of the most popular side dishes in America. I consider fries a result of expansion diffusion because they remained popular in Belgium, but they spread to other parts of the world as a result of soldiers’ interactions with the Belgian culture during World War I.

Ultimately, I could not locate much information regarding the history of hamburgers and fries served together as a dish in America. It seems to have been made popular in America by the fast food chain, White Castle. However the items became an American staple as a dish together, the dish itself is definitely an expression of globalization. It is because of Americans interactions with people of other countries that we were introduced to hamburgers and fries. In the case of hamburgers, we culturally relocation brought the Hamburg steak to the US and we made it our own. In the case of fries, it was American soldiers who brought the dish to the US after their interactions while stationed in Belgium. While these examples of globalization took place in another century and the mechanism by which the dish spread was by human beings. Today, globalization takes place at a much faster pace, for better or for worse, because of the use of the internet and other technology. Like many Americans, I enjoy hamburgers and fries. The dish is an expression of globalization and cultural diffusion because we have taken something we experienced from other cultures and made it our own.

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