The Hamburger

Yes, I actually wrote an entire paper about the hamburger. Not only that, I competed with it in the NCFCA as an “Illustrated Oratory” speech and qualified for Regional competition in it. The speech (in and of itself) is not that great. Personally, I think it was more my Illustrations that got me anywhere with it. But since you can’t see those, the speech itself will have to do. Anyway, here it is:

Sitting at the dinner table, six year old genius, Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, asks his mother the probing question:, Calvin is misinformed about hamburgers, so throughout this speech I hope to clarify his misconceptions. Because of their convenience and tastiness hamburgers have become one of the most popular meals today. We’ll investigate the hamburger by looking at the burger, the bun, and the toppings.

Before the burger met the bun, the development of ground beef would have to take place. The actual beginnings of the hamburger are uncertain. However, there are many theories and unusual tales about the origins of ground meat. One of these involves ancient Mongol horsemen. It is said that they would put raw meat between their saddles and their horse’s flanks. After a lengthy ride, this raw meat would become tenderized making a convenient and easily consumed meal by the horsemen on-the-go. The practice of tenderizing meat eventually spread westward to the countries around the Baltic Sea.  Yet they took it a step further by using a knife to finely chop the meat, and shape it into patties, thus bringing it closer to a modern hamburger. During the 1700s, thismethod reached the large port of Hamburg, Germany by traveling merchants.  It was elaborated on by adding chopped onion, raw egg, and various seasonings. This was called the Hamburg steak, and is the most likely origin of the term “hamburger.” In Andrew Smith’s Hamburger, A Global History he defines the Hamburg steak as “an inexpensive dish made by grinding beef not otherwise used for choice cuts.” In the 19th century, German immigrants brought the popular Hamburg steak to the United States. Within several years the steak began to appear in different restaurants, but did not become well known until it was served at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. An article in the New York Tribune reported that the Hamburg steak was one of the more popular dishes. Soon after this, the Hamburg steak was served by multiple restaurants, and found in cook books. The beef patty of the modern day hamburger is a direct descendant of the Hamburg steak.

Today, there are many different types of burgers, cooked in many different ways. A restaurant in Trenton, New Jersey serves a massive half pound burger, but don’t ask for a smaller one, because it’s the only burger they offer. Another burger joint in Pittsburgh cooks their burgers over a wood fueled open flame grill. George Motz, a burger connoisseur writes “It’s perfectly charred on the outside and juicy and moist on the inside.” McDonald’s iconic Big Mac contains two one ounce all beef patties that are seasoned with salt and pepper. However the Big Mac and the prevalent hamburgers we know today would not exist until ground beef met the bun.

In Josh Ozersky’s book, The Hamburger, he points out that for “almost its entire existence, a hamburger has meant ground beef served on a bun.”  At the end of the 1800’s America’s workforce turned to factories. Andrew Smith explains that “The invention of the hamburger sandwich was fostered by the industrialization of America.” Factory workers lived far enough away from work that it was inconvenient for them to go home for a noon day meal. Some would bring their own lunches with them; others would go to restaurants or grocery stores. However, as factories began to expand they started having night shifts as well. In 1872, Walter Scott, a Rhode Island man, noticed most restaurants and grocery stores were closed in the middle of the night. Hefilled a small wagon with various types of food, hauled it to a local factory, and sold meals to hungry night time factory workers. The Popularity of Scott’s wagon grew as, others built bigger and more elaborate wagons with full stoves. These carts served the conventional Hamburg steak. Since this was difficult to conveniently eat, lunch wagons were soon selling the steak between a couple pieces of bread, creating a sandwich.

There are several conflicting accounts of people claiming to have invented the hamburger sandwich. One took place at the Outagamie County Fair in Seymour, Wisconsin where fifteen year old Charlie Nagreen was serving ground beef. As the story goes, hungry fairgoers wanted to walk around looking at the various attractions while eating their food. Considering this request was messy and difficult, Nagreen satisfied his customers by serving the ground beef between two pieces of bread and arbitrarily named it “the hamburger.” Another report of the burger meeting the bun took place at Louis’ Lunch, a burger joint in New Haven Connecticut. In 1900, owner Louis Lassen was asked by a customer to make a “quick sandwich.” He proceeded to do so by taking leftover bits of steak, shaping them into a patty, and placing the patty between two slices of bread. There are various other claims similar to these, but as John Edge author of Hamburgers and Fries puts it: “For the most part, the telling of such tales is an exercise in fiction, for none of these accounts is truly verifiable.” Later, when automobiles became common and the fast food industry developed, hamburgers popularity surged. Josh Ozersky tells us, “One reason the hamburger so far outstripped its rivals in the fast-food era was because it was so easy to eat…while driving.”

There are multiple ways of serving burgers on buns. Louis’ Lunch, for example, serves their burger on Pepperidge Farm white toast, trying to authenticate their claim to the invention of the hamburger. Numerous burger outlets serve white buns, which are often toasted or topped with sesame seeds. Likewise, the Big Mac is prepared on a white toasted sesame seed bun. Buns however are not the only component that enhances the burger, toppings add tastiness and spark diversity, creating a more individualizedmeal.

Toppings allow innovation because of the vast assortment of choices. A basic hamburger at McDonald’s comes with mustard, ketchup, pickles, and onions. Burgers don’t need to be limited to these common toppings and condiments, for example, Shady Glen, a hamburger outlet in Connecticut serves their quarter pound burger with four slices of cheese placed on top. While cooking, the cheese partially melts off onto the griddle, encircling the burger with a thin crisp ring. Marty’s, another burger joint, advertises themselves as the “Home of the combo.” This is a hamburger patty cooked with cheese and a hotdog on top. But, the possibilities for a burger are endless.A gourmet burger chain, Red Robin, has a burger for everyone, by offering huge varieties of toppings from fried egg to guacamole, and sautéed mushrooms to pineapple. They even offer a vegan burger for those who are not keen on ground meat. My favorite way to eat a burger is with lettuce, onions, cheese and ketchup. I also enjoy my Grandfather’s “Cajun spice” a topping composed of powdered onion, thyme, and cumin, among other spices. Some restaurants like to take a minimalist approach. At Louis’ Lunchketchup is not served, but only tomatoes and onions. Jeff Lassen, son of the owner Ken , says “We honestly believe you don’t need ketchup because it’s the best burger there is.” George Motz adds “students from nearby Yale frequently try to sneak in small packets of ketchup only to be told that the burger they wanted to sit down and eat is now a to-go order.” Toppings are not the only items that complement burgers, sides offer a great way to expand your meal as well.When meat was rationed throughout World War II restaurants started preparing French fries with their burgers. Andrew Smith explains, “Potatoes became a more important menu item during the war. They were inexpensive, plentiful and not subject to rationing.” As a result of toppings and sides, hamburgers have become a tastier and more innovative meal.

Today Americans eat about 13 billion hamburgers each year. McDonald’s alone sells over 75 hamburgers every second worldwide.The evolution of the hamburger began with the development of ground beef, continued with the application of the bun, and was completed with the implementation of toppings. Because of hamburgers convenience and tastiness they have come to be one of the most popular meals today. Unlike Calvin I’m glad that hamburgers are made out beef. I don’t know about you, all this talk is making me hungry, so excuse me while I go and get a burger, do you want to join me?


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Tennyson, Jeffrey. Hamburger Heaven. 1993

Ozersky, Josh. The Hamburger. 2008.

McWilliams, Mark. The Story behind the Dish: Classic American Foods. 2012.

George Washington Carver

Since it’s been a while since I’ve had any new revelations, I’m going to share with you my Biographical Narrative speech that I competed with in the 2011-2012 NCFCA season.

“I wanted to know the name of every stone and flower and insect and bird and beast. I wanted to know where it got its color where it got its life – but there was no one to tell me.”

George Washington Carver had a fascination with God’s creation and wanted to study it.  As a leading scientist of his day he had a particular passion for the study of plants and soil. We can plainly see his passion through his words. In addition, he had a strong desire to improve his surroundings and positively influence the people around him. This led to many accomplishments. Today we will see if those accomplishments had a positive effect on the Southern states by looking at: Carver’s study of natural elements; his education of the South’s population; and his discoveries of innovative food products.

George Washington Carver’s research of soil and clay helped the Southern people use their natural resources more effectively.  People in the South used cotton as a source of income, and often used cotton to buy merchandise.  Year after year white, fluffy cotton balls grew on most of the plantations in the South.  As a result the soil was depleted of the nutrients it needed, and it became very poor in quality.  In a biography of Carver by his friend Rackham Holt, Holt explained that when Carver came to the South he encouraged people to grow other plants besides cotton like peanuts, beans, and cowpeas.  Through his research he found that these products were easy to grow, gave the soil nutrients that the cotton had taken away, and were good tasting.  Carver also taught them to rotate their crops.  This allowed the soil to receive all the nutrients it needed. 

Carver believed there was a purpose for everything.  One morning while he was walking through the woods he describes that he saw:

“Vast deposits of multicolored clays, ranging from snow-white through many gradations to the richest sienna and Indian reds on the one hand, and from the deepest yellow-ocher to the palest cream tinting on the other.”

He thought these clays must be useful.  He discovered that by sifting the rocks and sand out of the clay and mixing it with water, the clay would make an inexpensive and easy to produce paint. By adding an extract from rotten sweet potatoes to yellow clay Carver made a soft green color. In total he made 27 different shades of paint. Since most of the farmhouses in the South were in need of repair, these clays were perfect for preserving and improving the appearance of the homes.  It also provided a way for the owner to have pride in their home, and gave them a reason to take better care of it.  Through George Washington Carver’s research of soil and clay he had a positive effect on the Southern states.

The knowledge that Carver acquired through research he taught to the South’s population in several ways.  In 1896 Carver arrived at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama as the agricultural director.  Tuskegee Institute was the very first college for African Americans.  Until slavery was abolished in 1864, many slaves were dependent on their masters so they didn’t know how to rely on themselves.  Some of the things Carver taught the students were how to grow alternative plants, how to use good farming techniques, and how to manage a home.  Many students loved Carver’s teaching.  For example Holt states that among the many Bible studies at Tuskegee, Carver’s was the most attended, even though it was voluntary. One of the teachers at the Tuskegee Bible School protested Carver’s bible study to the principle, who replied: “Well, if anyone at this institution can have a class in the Bible which is not compulsory and well attended for three years, I advise you to say nothing and not in any way disturb it, because we have to compel students to attend most such classes”

Carver passed on his teaching ability to his students. In 1906, he designed a wagon equipped with demonstration items, ranging from a hand churn to a two-horse steel-beam plow.  It traveled to a farmer’s house and Carver’s students from Tuskegee would teach the farmers in the area, and their wives, how to use the demonstration tools, how to fertilize their soil, how to cook and preserve their vegetables and various other helpful techniques. Over time Tuskegee employed more and more wagons.

In addition to teaching at Tuskegee and instituting the demonstration wagon, Carver wrote educational bulletins.  These bulletins cost between 10 and 25 cents, and taught a wide variety of topics, from “The raising of hogs,” to “How to grow the peanut, and 105 ways to prepare it for human consumption.” He wrote 44 such bulletins in all. They were very detailed and anyone would find it easy to understand the steps given in the bulletin.  Carver published these bulletins during the 46 years that he worked at Tuskegee.  Carver’s devotion to teaching the Southern people helped them become more independent.

Carver also discovered innovative uses for alternative crops.  Very few food items had been grown in the South up to this time.  The cotton crops were in danger because of the boll weevil, a tiny insect that eats cotton.  Carver had warned the farmers about these destructive insects, and told them to grow different plants like sweet potatoes and peanuts that would not be destroyed by boll weevils. Very few farmers listened to him and as a result their fields were devastated, but the ones who heeded his advice had prosperous fields. However, there wasn’t a big market for sweet potatoes and peanuts, so Carver discovered amazing new uses for them.  According to Graham and Lipscomb’s biography of Carver, he made 118 different sweet potato products which includes: candy of 14 varieties, tapioca, starch, shoe blacking, and flour.  During World War I Tuskegee was saving over 700 pounds of flour each year by mixing sweet potato flour with wheat flour. Not only did it save flour for the troops, but many found it better tasting.  Carver also discovered 300 varieties of peanut products. Some of them may seem unlikely, for example, laundry soap, mock chicken, and ice cream. Others are more common like salted peanuts, and cooking oil. Carver is even credited with the invention of peanut butter, one of America’s most loved foods to this day.  The sweet potato and peanut helped provide food and a source of income for the Southern people.

After a long life of great discoveries George Washington Carver died on January 5th 1943 at the age of 79. Carver’s analysis of soil and clay, his teaching at Tuskegee and in the community, and his formulation of products made out of sweet potatoes and peanuts had a positive effect on the South.  His research resulted in the improvement of the South’s soil and homes.  By sharing his knowledge Carver helped the former slaves to rely on themselves.  Finally, Carver’s original food products helped give the South income and sustenance.  Carver used his available resources to develop a better South. As George Washington Carver said himself,

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

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Collins, David. Man’s Slave Becomes God’s Scientist, George Washington Carver. 1981.
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Shirley Graham, George D Lipscomb. Dr. George Washington Carver, Scientist. 1944.

The Statue of Liberty

I broke to Semi-Finals in Open Interpretation at the 2013 Region VI Regional Invitational Tournament

As most of you know I compete in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA). This year I qualified for a Regional Invitational tournament, and competed in Illustrated Oratory (IO) and Open Interpretation. (Open) In Open I was able to advance to semi-finals, but I didn’t advance in IO. Since it wouldn’t really work to post the script of my Open (you wouldn’t be able to see my acting), I’m posting the script of my IO, of course you won’t be able to see any of my visual aids, but at least you’ll get the general picture:

“We shall not forget that Liberty has here made her home: nor shall her chosen alter be neglected….[Her] stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until liberty enlightens the world.”

These words were delivered by Grover Cleveland at the unveiling of the “Statue of Liberty.” But this unveiling was not easily achieved; it took a dedicated and united undertaking of two nations before this symbol of freedom was complete. The process of creating the Statue of Liberty began with the idea of two individuals, continued with a functional design and united effort in France, and was concluded by a deliberate and collective struggle in the United States.

The idea of the Statue of Liberty was a passing thought of a distinguished French law professor and historian, Édouard de Laboulaye. Laboulaye was an admirer of the American form of government, and spoke adamantly in favor of a republic, even though Napoleon III ruled France as a dictator at the time. In 1865, while Laboulaye was holding a dinner party, a conversation arose about the relations between France and America, in it he stated, “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations.” This idea was planted in the head of a young man who was present at the party named Frѐdѐric Auguste Bartholdi, a well known sculptor. He thought that a monument made jointly by two peoples, French and American, was a wonderful idea, and began formulating different designs immediately. Bartholdi thought the theme displayed through the statue should be liberty or liberty enlightening the world. Sadly Napoleon III’s dictatorship would not approve of such a statue. But in 1871 Prussia overtook France and allowed the French to create a new republic government in which Laboulaye held an elected position. Unfortunately there were still many people in this government that opposed Laboulaye’s ideas of a democracy. In Jonathan Harris’s A Statue for America he states that Bartholdi thought that during this time it would be good for “a nationwide campaign on behalf of such a memorial [to] help … promote republican sentiments among the French.” It wasn’t until 1875 that Laboulaye and his followers in the French government were able to construct a new democratic constitution. Now a statue made as a “memorial to their independence … [with a] united effort” could become a reality. Laboulaye began a fundraising campaign in France while Bartholdi traveled to the United States. In America Bartholdi would try to establish favor for a statue such as this. As he arrived in New York harbor, he saw a relatively small piece of land and later stated that: “The statue was born for this place which inspired its conception.” The name of the area was “Bedloe’s Island.” Throughout his visiting of the United States he met with many important figures, including President Ulysses S. Grant. Bartholdi specified that the French would pay for the statue. However the remaining funds needed for the pedestal would be raised by the Americans. Most people said they liked the idea, but none of them took any action, due to the absence of a united effort. Despite the Americans lack of active participation in the project, Bartholdi continued to pursue his dream.

When Bartholdi returned to France he worked on his final design for liberty. A common design for a statue at this time was a majestic woman with her hand aloft holding a symbolic object. These qualities were very similar to what Bartholdi came up with: A young female holding up a torch of light and striding on broken chains illustrating the victory of freedom over slavery. She would wear a crown of seven rays. Jonathan Harris explained that: “Bartholdi intended the seven rays of his statue to signify the influence of liberty radiating out over the seven seas and seven continents.” The statue also held a tablet with the date July 4th 1776 on it, to establish its American heritage. While Bartholdi was perfecting his design, Laboulaye started the French-American Union that would be mainly committed to the fundraising of the statue. The first estimation for the cost of the monument was 240,000 francs or about $60,000, but by the time construction finished the final cost was over six times this amount. Donations accumulated from school children to businessmen and from everyday citizens to investors. After the first year of fundraising Bartholdi had enough money to commence work in the large workshop of Gaget Gauthier & CO in Paris. This company specialized in making large metal sculptures, and provided Bartholdi with many of their craftsmen. By this time Bartholdi had decided to make the monument out of copper, which is a relatively soft metal and would be easy to shape at hot temperatures. Over time when the copper is in damp places it will develop a green film, called patina. This film would protect the copper parts of the statue from being corroded further. However, copper was soft and it could not stand on its own, so Bartholdi had Gustave Eiffel design an iron skeleton that would support the statue especially during the strong winds of New York Harbor. Bartholdi made many plaster miniatures, before he made the full scale plaster statue that would consist of 11 sections. Once a section of the final plaster model was finished, his workers made wood molds out of the section; they used these molds to hammer each copper sheet into its proper form. After a sheet was finished, the workers would bring it outside and attach it to the iron skeleton. In January 1884 the statue was completed. It wasn’t until the 4th of July that the French officially presented the fully assembled statue in Paris to the American people.

Although the statue was completed in France, the Americans still had not realized their part of the deal. Prior to the beginning of the French-American Union there was little enthusiasm for the statue, but once this union formed the statue received the attention of newspapers, which stirred public interest. In 1876 Bartholdi sent the finished torch to be displayed at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, which further increased American’s enthusiasm. One year later William M. Evarts, a politician, started a group called the “American Committee” to raise funds for the pedestal. Finally, in 1883 the construction began, but just a few months after the French presented the statue to America, construction ceased on the pedestal, because of insufficient funds. Just when everything seemed to be at a loss, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, printed an article titled “The National Disgrace.” In this article he displayed disgust that the American people were “too unpatriotic to contribute a dollar towards a pedestal….” In another article he made a couple days later he announced that The New York World was about to start a campaign, in which they would raise the remaining $100,000 needed to finish the pedestal. Today this sum is equal to more than 2 million dollars. To encourage donations he said that “We will…publish the name of every giver, however small the sum given.” After the first week of fundraising The New York World had raised $2,000. Donations received from men, woman, and children of all positions were piling up. Some children taking French lessons said: “we don’t like [taking French], but we love the good French people for giving us this beautiful Statue we send you $1, the money we have saved to go to the circus…” During this fundraising, the statue was disassembled and sent to Bedloe’s Island on the ship Isѐre. When it arrived, The New York World’s headline was “WELCOME, LIBERTY!” A few months later its headline was a triumphant “ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS!” Remarkably, over 80% of the donations were less than a dollar. The Americans had finally made a whole hearted effort. The following spring the pedestal was completed, and the statue was assembled. On October 28th 1886 Bartholdi unveiled the Statue of Liberty on Bedloe’s Island. Over 100,000 people came to see this 151 foot colossus revealed. Unfortunately, Laboulaye, the initiator of the statue’s existence, did not live to see this day.

Since that time more than 150 million people have visited the statue. Even though a complete restoration was done in the 1980s, she still appears just as Bartholdi created her. The Statue of Liberty’s development came about by two individuals, was carried forth with a solid design and a deliberate effort in France, and was completed with a dedicated endeavor of the Americans. The making of the Statue of Liberty was an enduring and united effort.



Harris, Jonathan. A Statue for America. 1985.


Shapiro, Marry. How They Built the Statue of Liberty. 1985.


Wilson, James and Fiske, John. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American biography. 1887


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