A review on Ernest Hemingway’s hamburger recipe by Dorian Pacheco.
Earlier this fall, I came across an article in the Paris Review about a hamburger recipe by Ernest Hemingway. The author of the article, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, had recreated the hamburger herself. I knew I had to do the same.
Fall break had just begun as I made preparations to cook Hemingway’s burgers in the comfort of my own home. I looked over the ingredients over and over: dry red or white wine, garlic, green onions, and a plethora of spices that I had never heard of or even used before. My first problem was finding Spice Island’s Beau Monde seasoning, so I set about recreating it using a recipe I found online. I also made my own version of Spice Island’s Mei-Yen powder. According to Tan, the company discontinued this product several years ago, but gave her the recipe: 9 parts salt, 9 parts sugar, and 2 parts MSG. I omitted the MSG because I don’t like food additives.
As soon as I finished blending my spices, I began to prepare the beef. The dry ingredients went in first. I massaged the spices in carefully, trying to produce an even mixture throughout the meat. Next, I added the capers and liquid ingredients. Once everything was in the bowl, I wondered how the beef could possibly soak up so much liquid (more wine than anything). I went along anyway. Much to my surprise, the meat absorbed the wine after a minute of kneading. After I let mixture marinate, I set out forming inch-thick patties and dropping them in a hot frying pan. The patties sizzled quietly, giving off a “heady scent of charred beef tinged with sage, garlic and celery seed.” The minutes passed slowly as I paced in front of the stove, eagerly waiting.
Finally! They finished, and I dropped the patties onto toasted hamburger buns. Neither Hemingway nor Tan seemed to have added any condiments to their burger, so I decided not to either. I brought the burgers to the dining table and sat down. “Are you ready?” I asked my dad. We exchanged a quick glance before we each took a bite out of our burgers. A moment of silence ensued before we began to eat quickly, letting out small remarks like “wow” and “mmm.”
The burger was juicy and the flavors were complex. I did not regret leaving it plain, because condiments would have contaminated the intensity of the meat. It was perfect the way it was. Inspired by Hemingway, my dad paired his meal with glass of cold beer. After finishing the meal all too quickly, I leaned back in my chair. The California sun was seeping in through the cracks in the curtains, and the smell of spices lingered in my kitchen. Damn, that was a good burger.