The 1904 World’s Fair in Saint Louis is the center of the modern culinary universe… that is, if you believe everything you read on the internet.
Tales of how the hamburger, hot dogs, ice cream cones, iced tea and more were invented at the fair are published by small personal blogs and major magazines alike.
One such tale, of Fletcher Davis and his hamburger stand, seems to be repeated most often… and this story--even though it’s fiction--was the basis for one Texas lawmaker to pass a bill proclaiming Texas to be the birthplace of the hamburger.
This is, of course, completely untrue. So why, then, do these stories continue to spread year after year?
The 1904 World’s Fair, which was officially called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, was the true beginning of a new American century. The exposition featured 1,500 buildings sprawling across more than 1,000 acres of formerly wooded park, and the future could be seen everywhere you looked.
New breakthroughs such as puffed rice, which became the basis for modern breakfast cereals, and Jell-O brand products were first shown at the fair, and this may have something to do with why so many people just assume the fair was the center of all of these new wondrous food creations.
As America moved forward into the 20th century, there were major changes in kitchen appliances and how we interacted with food… with less reliance on local sources and large corporations taking up more space in our pantries.
While it still can’t claim the hamburger, it seems only fitting that people would point to the 1904 World’s Fair as the birthplace of the modern American kitchen.
On this episode of Cooking with Fire, Chef Tom and I will cover more history of the Saint Louis World’s Fair and give you a recipe for a truly modern burger: the beer-can bacon burger.
2 (huge) servings
- 1 lb 80/20 ground beef
- 2 slices bacon
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
- 1 jalapeño, sliced
- 1 tbsp favorite BBQ rub
- 1/2 cup beer
- 2 oz shredded cheddar
- 2 oz shredded pepper jack
- 2 ciabatta buns (or other hefty bun)
- iceberg lettuce, shredded
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet. Add the onions, jalapeño, beer and BBQ rub. Cook until liquid is gone and veggies are softened.
- Preheat your grill to 275ºF. Form two (1/2 lb) balls with the 80/20 ground beef. Press a beer can into the center of the ball and form a sort of bowl around the bottom of the can. Remove the can from the meat. Season the beef with BBQ rub. Wrap sides of the bowl with the reserved slices of bacon.
- Add the onions and jalapeños to the inside of the “bowl,” filling 2/3 full. Top with the shredded cheeses.
- Smoke the burger until the internal temperature reaches 140ºF, about 1 hour. Turn the temperature up to 500ºF and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF. While the burger smokes you can toast your ciabatta buns. Serve the burger dressed with the lettuce and your favorite condiments.