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A Book for Beefeaters

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We are proud to note the publication of The Hamburger: A History (Yale University Press; $22), written by nymag.com’s Grub Street food blogger Josh Ozersky. The book is more than an overview of the sandwich; it is an impassioned argument for its significance in American culture and a celebration of its power. “What do Americans think of when they think of the hamburger?” writes Ozersky. “Is it a sizzling disk of goodness, served in a roadside restaurant dense with local lore, or the grim end product of a secret, sinister empire of tormented animals and unspeakable slaughtering practices? Is it cooking or commodity? An icon of freedom or the quintessence of conformity?” And the answer is … all of the above! Ozersky’s larger point is that the ubiquity of the hamburger has turned it into a blank screen on which people project their own particular beliefs and biases. And unlike other recent tracts, The Hamburger bears no ill will toward McDonald’s. Ozersky considers the chain a great American success story “in its scale and in its soul.” But the real hero of the book is White Castle, which Ozersky credits with inventing the hamburger, for all intents and purposes, and “bringing it to its God-like prominence.”


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