Thursday, March 12, 2009

Think Outside the Box: Set Down Yer Buns!

Sure hamburger buns make a fantastic delivery system for the juicy goodness inside, but what else do those buns provide? They provide calories, sugar and a guarantee to spike your blood sugar. That's it. Let me put it to you this way: If you asked for your burger with no bun, would you order the bun later and eat it? Of course not! So why not order your burger with no bun? Don't let someone else decide what you will eat. Traditionally burgers are eaten with a bun but when has tradition ever trumped sound nutritional judgment? (Most of the time, I know.) It's time to think outside of the box and set those buns down.

I had to learn the hard way. About a month or so into my first year without sugar I had a hankering for a juicy Gardenburger. I could almost taste the tomato slices and crunchy lettuce that I would pile on top of the melted cheese, complete with mustard drizzled all over the.....bun? That had to be full of sugar! Dang! I realized I would have to find out but I was sick of looking at ingredients. I was pretty sure I knew what I would find. I had recently discovered that the original Gardenburger is sugar-free, but now I was faced with checking into the ingredients of a hamburger bun. I was still so new to being without sugar that all of this researching every little thing seemed so tedious. Was I being obsessive-compulsive with this label-reading business? Why couldn't I just sit down and enjoy my food?

It was most annoying to other people who were waiting to eat while I dug through the pantry looking for bun ingredients. "Aaaaack!" What a joy-kill to read sugar in the ingredients on that plastic bag. How was I going to enjoy my Gardenburger? One of the reasons I love eating them is because you eat them like a sandwich. I didn't want to use utensils! I wanted the satisfaction of that messy, hand-to-mouth delivery.

Not wanting to feel defeated, I wrapped the Gardenburger in a huge piece of lettuce and stuffed the tomato and cheese inside. Then I added more lettuce and a lot of mustard. I love mustard.

Okay, how do I describe the insanely wonderful sensation of eating that burger?! I had never eaten a burger without a bun before. The lettuce held the burger perfectly and added more of the crunch that I love. I didn't mind that mustard juice was dripping down my arm. I didn't set down that burger once. I ate it faster than I've eaten anything before. Then, I wanted another. I didn't have that bloated, full feeling I got when eating a burger complete with bun. It was incredible. From then on I've enjoyed my burgers wrapped in lettuce and I think I've started a trend. My husband, who eats meaty burgers, now sometimes orders his without the bun. We laugh and joke that maybe when we finish our lettuce-wrapped burgers we'll order buns for dessert.

I'm curious, why do you eat your burger with a bun?

Where did the beef and bun idea coincide to make the "hamburger?" Here are some claims about that moment in history:

  • "According to one claim, Charlie Nagreen served the world's first hamburger at the Seymour Fair (Outagamie County Fair) of 1885. 'Hamburger' Charlie decided to flatten a meatball and place it between slices of bread to increase portability.
  • [Claim 2]: Western New York history recorded that Frank and Charles Menches ran out of pork for their sausage patty sandwiches at the 1885 Erie County Fair. Their supplier, reluctant to butcher more hogs in the summer heat, suggested they use beef instead. The brothers fried some up, but found it bland. They added coffee, brown sugar, and other ingredients to create a taste which stands distinct without condiments. They christened their creation the 'Hamburg Sandwich' after Hamburg, New York where the fair has been held since 1868; the name was probably later condensed by common use to the shorter contraction 'hamburger' (and so explaining why a beef sandwich--which never contained any pork--bears this name). The original recipe is featured at Menches Brothers Restaurants in Akron, Ohio.
  • [Claim 3]: In 1974, The New York Times ran a story about Louis' Lunch having a serious challenger to the title of inventing the hamburger. According to the McDonald's hamburger chain the inventor was an unknown food vendor at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. Newspaper columnist, Texas historian, and restaurateur Frank X. Tolbert said that this food vendor was Fletcher Davis who operated a café at 115 Tyler Street on the north side of the courthouse square in Athens, Texas, in the late 1880s. Local lore holds that Davis was selling an unnamed sandwich of ground beef at his lunch counter at that time. During the 1980s Dairy Queen ran a commercial filmed in Athens, calling the town the birthplace of the hamburger.
  • [Claim 4]: Louis' Lunch has been selling steak and hamburger since 1895 when Louis Lassen opened his lunch wagon. This small establishment, which advertises itself as the oldest hamburger restaurant in the U.S., is credited by some with having invented the classic American hamburger when Louis sandwiched a pattie between two pieces of white toast for a busy office worker in 1900. Louis' Lunch flame broils the hamburgers in the original 1898 Bridge & Beach vertical cast iron gas stoves using locally patented steel wire gridirons to hold the hamburgers in place while they cook. The U.S. Library of Congress American Folklife Center Local Legacies Project web site credits Louis' Lunch as the maker of America's first hamburger and steak sandwich."
For more information about the history of the hamburger and the hamburger bun, click here.



beckiwithani said...

I want to give a little plug here for Ezekiel Bread (sprouted grain bread). It's sold in the freezer section, usually in the health food area of your store. The Ezekiel brand is really expensive ($5 for a little loaf), but my supermarket has another brand for $3.50.

The grains in this bread are sprouted (that's how they get "cracked" so they aren't hard), but NOT milled into flour. There is no refined sugar; some of the varieties have a tiny bit of molasses or honey. And we LOVE it. So, so good.

It's sturdy enough that, if toasted, it would make a great hamburger bun!

My Year Without said...

Yes! I love Ezekiel bread, however I have not seen their hamburger buns. I've not looked before, so next time I'm out I will take a look!

Sprouted bread has been a godsend around here. I'm interested in learning how to bake with sprouted grains.

Thanks for the great tip.


This post came at the right moment for me! I plan to go to the store to get burger fixings for tonight. I totally had buns on the list, even though I wasn’t thrilled about having the bread. I just wanted that authentic burger experience like you talked about. I’ve done the lettuce thing before – reading it here just reinforced that it’s the way to go. Thanks for the reminder – my husband and I will have our burgers bun free tonight :)