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Other titles in the American Icons series:
The Hamburger: A History (American Icons)by Josh Ozersky
Synopses & Reviews
What do Americans think of when they think of the hamburger? A robust, succulent spheroid of fresh ground beef, the birthright of red-blooded citizens? Or a Styrofoam-shrouded Big Mac, mass-produced to industrial specifications and served by wage slaves to an obese, brainwashed population? Is it cooking or commodity? An icon of freedom or the quintessence of conformity?
This fast-paced and entertaining book unfolds the immense significance of the hamburger as an American icon. Josh Ozersky shows how the history of the burger is entwined with American business and culture and, unexpectedly, how the burgers story is in many ways the story of the country that invented (and reinvented) it.
Spanning the years from the nineteenth century with its waves of European immigrants to our own era of globalization, the book recounts how German hamburg steak” evolved into hamburgers for the rising class of urban factory workers and how the innovations of the White Castle System and the McDonalds Corporation turned the burger into the Model T of fast food. The hamburger played an important role in Americas transformation into a mobile, suburban culture, and today, Americas favorite sandwich is nothing short of an irrepressible economic and cultural force. How this all happened, and why, is a remarkable story, told here with insight, humor, and gusto.
What do Alger Hiss and the hamburger have in common? According to the editors of a new series of books, they are both "Icons of America" — yet both have had their patriotism questioned. In "The Hamburger," historian Josh Ozersky dispenses quickly with the claim that the hamburger — never mind its name — has its roots in Hamburg, Germany: "It doesn't matter if Mongols used to ride around with minced... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) horsemeat under their saddles, on their way to some hamburger-fueled havoc in the thirteenth century," he pronounces. "The hamburger is an American invention." Ozersky's history of the burger (which he says is only the real thing if it's served on an enriched white bun) takes readers on a culinary tour that begins with a 1763 recipe and ends with the mass-produced, gussied-up versions of today. The story of the burger, Ozersky shows, is nothing less than a reflection of American culture: It is "the story of European immigration in the nineteenth century and urbanization in the twentieth"; later the sandwich "stars in the high-powered story of business on the march, as the hamburger, thanks to the innovations of the White Castle System and the McDonald's Corporation, became the Model T of prepared foods." In recent years, the hamburger has come to embody something more sinister: "a medium for exploitation — of workers, of consumers, of children," as books like "Fast Food Nation" have argued. Ozersky acknowledges these criticisms, but his slender volume offers a more benevolent examination of the dish he calls "the most powerful food object in the industrialized world." Also of Interest — The family that produced Alice, William and Henry James falls "somewhere between the Alcotts and the Royal Tenenbaums," Paul Fisher writes in his biography of the clan, "House of Wits" (Holt, $20). Fisher highlights the dysfunction of the Jameses, a group he describes as "forerunners of today's Prozac-loving ... self-conscious, narcissistic, fame-seeking, self-dramatized, hard-to-mate-or-to-marry Americans." — Biologist Stacey O'Brien's affection for the barn owl extends to its smell, which she likens to "maple syrup but not as sweet, something closer to butterscotch and comfy pillows all in one." In "Wesley the Owl" (Free Press, $15), O'Brien chronicles the 19 years she cared for an injured owl, sharing both the personal tale of her relationship with the bird and her scientific insights on the species. — Though the title of his book is "Why I Am Not a Scientist" (University of California, $22.95), Jonathan Marks admits on the first page that he in fact is one. Specifically, Marks is an anthropologist, and using his training in that field, he dissects thorny questions about what it means to be a scientist and, more fundamentally, what science is — and is not. — They are an unlikely double-dating duo: a 40-something style-conscious, gay Manhattan writer and his elderly father, a retired administrative law judge for the DMV with a fondness for gray vinyl loafers and whose idea of a loving gesture is to buy his son a cemetery plot on the way to his Tuesday tennis game. But in his memoir, "Assisted Loving" (Harper, $14.99), Bob Morris recounts with humor how he and his father found common ground as they searched for love. Nora Krug is The Washington Post's monthly paperback columnist. Reviewed by Nora Krug, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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About the Author
An American cultural historian and recognized authority on food, Josh Ozersky is food editor/online for New York Magazine. He has written for The
New York Times, the New York Post, Saveur, and many other publications. His books include Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivores Guide to New York and Archie Bunkers America: TV in an Era of Changing Times. He lives in New York City.
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