As I was thinking about how nice it is to have all of those ingredients, I came across a blog post by Waldo Jaquith where he describes how much more impossible it would be to make a hamburger “from stratch.” Since he already raises chickens, he thought it would be fun to grow tomatoes and onions, make buns and mustard, and grind his own beef by hand. But the more he thought about it, he realized to be truly legitimate he’d need to raise his own cows. Then he realized that he’d need at least two cows, one for meat and one for milk to make cheese. As he continued to peel back layers, he came to this realization:
Further reflection revealed that it’s quite impractical—nearly impossible—to make a cheeseburger from scratch. Tomatoes are in season in the late summer. Lettuce is in season in spring and fall. Large mammals are slaughtered in early winter. The process of making such a burger would take nearly a year, and would inherently involve omitting some core cheeseburger ingredients. It would be wildly expensive—requiring a trio of cows—and demand many acres of land. There’s just no sense in it.Thank God for the age we live in! :-)
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors—in all likelihood, a couple of dozen—and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.