Don't Mess With Nutmeggers

Last fall, my colleague Chris Swope reported on the Texas State Fair's bid to see how far culinary invention could stoop. You'd think the Lone ...
January 17, 2007

Louislunch_1 Last fall, my colleague Chris Swope reported on the Texas State Fair's bid to see how far culinary invention could stoop. You'd think the Lone Star State would be satisfied to rest on those laurels.

But no. Now it's messing with history. A state representative there named Betty Brown has proposed that the legislature declare Athens, Texas, the birthplace of the hamburger.

For those of you who have ever frequented a tiny brick landmark called Louis' Lunch, in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, you know that this would be a legislative travesty. The hamburger was invented at Louis'.

I know this because I grew up in New Haven and spent more time than was good for me downing vertically broiled patties of really excellent ground beef there. Once you're in the know about Louis' (I'll let you discover its fine points yourself, but all I can say is, do not ask for ketchup), you understand what tradition really means, however determined some upstart burg in Texas might be to steal it.

Fortunately, this argument doesn't have to rest on my own admittedly biased standards of proof. No less an authority than the Library of Congress also identifies Louis' as the hamburger's birthplace, though this is mostly because of the intervention of the congresswoman who represents New Haven.

I'll leave the last word, though, to John DeStefano, New Haven's mayor:

"It's a well-known and established fact that New Haven is the home of the hamburger," he says. "Of course, New Haven is also the birthplace of the cotton gin, the first rubber tires, the corkscrew, the Frisbee, lollipops, Erector Sets and pizza. We are even the birthplace of George Bush -- who wants people to think he's from Texas. So yes, the hamburger is as much a New Haven original as President Bush. Get over it, Texas."

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