I don’t know about you, but I rarely need an excuse to enjoy a good burger, though International Hamburger Day on 28 May seems as good a time as any to tuck into the fast-food classic.
However, the humble burger is no longer just the mainstay of the typical high street food chains, with trendy restaurants, gastro pubs and street food trucks serving up their own take on the classic beef patty in a bun.
And yes, I did say beef because, despite the name, beef is actually still its main ingredient - unless you’ve opted for chicken, bison, ostrich, tofu, halloumi, bean or any of the endless other varieties that are extending the burger (we ditch the ‘ham’ here) options for the barbecue staple.
But going back to the name - have you ever wondered why the original version is called a hamburger when it’s made from beef? It turns out the clue is in the name, because despite the natural assumption that the hamburger comes from America, the home of fast food, it was actually invented in Germany. Yes, the hamburger originates from Hamburg, where the locals were the first people to serve cooked ground beef - the product of Hamburg cows - in a bun.
In the 19th century German sailors regularly ate salted, minced beef they called Hamburg steak and the name ‘hamburger’ descended from that… More than likely in America, where it was fashioned into the all-conquering version we know and love today.
While you’re no doubt reeling from the news that hamburgers are not from America, I thought it’d be a good time to clarify the origins of a few other foods, all of which come from places you probably won’t expect.
Be warned though - in keeping with the burger start, most of the delicacies below will have your lips salivating, and none, absolutely none, are healthy…
“Do you want fries with that?” is the standard question when buying a burger from a fast food outlet, and of course the fries in question are of the French variety. But don’t let the name fool you - they don’t come from France, we have the country’s near neighbour Belgium to thank for the perfect burger accompaniment.
The delicacy was apparently invented more out of necessity than choice, as the Belgians used to fry potatoes as a substitute for fish when the latter was in short supply - initially even cutting the potatoes into fish shapes.
A few years ago a group of Belgians launched a campaign to get UNESCO to add fried potatoes to its official list of the country’s cultural treasures but they are still waiting to hear if there’s any spud news to report.
If you want to enjoy French fries in their country of origin, or the country to which they’ve been attributed, RCI has four resorts in Belgium and 66 in France.
Sticking with fast food, like burgers the hot dog is another treat you’d probably associate with the US - it’s a staple of the baseball ballpark after all. But again, the credit goes to Europe, as the Germans were eating pork sausages way back in the 1300s.
That said, the expression ‘hot dog’ - describing sausage served in a sliced bun - almost certainly originates in America, with a couple of possible explanations. One is that ‘dog’ was a slang name for sausage in the late 1800s due to producers being accused of using dog meat in their recipes.
The cheerier version is that German immigrants dubbed the food ‘dachshund sausage’ in reference to the squat, tubular dogs they brought with them from Germany.
Hot dogs and sport really go together, and not just at baseball games in America. Going to a football match is a great experience during an exchange holiday in Germany - where RCI has 16 resorts - made even better with the addition of a frankfurter, bratwurst or the fans’ favourite - currywurst.
With a name like 'chimichanga', the deep-fried burrito filled with rice, beans, cheese and meat or vegetables could hardly be more Mexican, could it?
Well, yes and no. The name derives from two Mexican terms (chimi and changa), but legend has it that the food was invented in the US state of Arizona in the 1920's, when an employee of El Charro restaurant accidentally dropped a burrito in the deep-fat fryer.
They immediately knew they were on to a winner with their American take on Mexican cuisine, and the chimichanga has become so popular that a few years ago there was a campaign to have it named the State food of Arizona.
RCI has 51 resorts in Arizona, a wonderful outdoor destination that counts the Grand Canyon among its many attractions.
A mainstay of the continental breakfast, croissants are widely assumed to come from France - and have certainly become a staple of the country’s cuisine - but ‘sacré bleu!’ they do in fact come from Austria.
The buttery, flaky delicacy is based on a crescent-shaped bread known as a kipfel, and legend has it that it was introduced to France by an Austrian who opened a Viennese bakery in the country. The French quickly fell in love with it, and gave it their own twist by using puffed pastry to create the flaky treat we know today.
RCI has 20 resorts in Austria where you can enjoy incredible scenery as well as some wonderful baked goods!
The irresistible doughnut, scourge of calorie counters the world over, seems to get more popular, and with more varieties, with every passing day. The glazed treat seems another natural fit with the US - everyone from cops on the beat to office workers in meetings seem to scoff them - but it has a history that actually predates the discovery of the New World.
The ancient Greeks invented the first doughnuts, known as loukoumades, by frying dough balls in olive oil, and even dished them out as prizes at the ancient Olympic Games. Which I guess makes them the food of champions, so feel free to tuck in!
Cakes and sticky treats are still hugely popular in Greece, so next time you’re on an RCI Exchange Holiday in the country, be sure to stop in at one of the many local bakeries, most of which open late into the night, for some baklava or other treat.
The famous Roman emperor doesn’t have anything to do with the well-known salad of romaine lettuce, crutons, parmesan cheese and dressing. While it’s also a staple of American restaurants, it doesn’t originate there either.
Both countries are represented in its inception though, as it was Italian-American restaurateur Caesar Cardini who came up with the iconic recipe. Although living in San Diego, he invented the dish at a restaurant across the border in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was able to work in catering establishments free from the restrictions of prohibition.
As with so many kitchen miracles it was more by accident than design, as a lack of ingredients caused by an especially busy night on 4 July 1924 forced him to make do with what he’d got.
Tijuana makes a fascinating day trip if you’re ever visiting southern California - be sure to take your passport - and Hotel Caesar’s, with its restaurant, can still be found on the town’s main drag.
The clue’s in the name, right? Wrong. Upmarket London department store Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented the popular picnic food - a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs then baked or deep-fried - in the early 1700s, but it almost certainly dates back even further, and to another continent.
The medieval Indian dish nargisi kofta - ground meat encasing a hard-boiled egg - bears a striking resemblance to the Scotch Egg, and almost certainly provided its inspiration. Britain’s involvement in the colonisation of India in the 18th century probably laid (ahem) the groundwork for this particular egg.
India is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination with our members, and RCI now has 406 resorts to choose from there in its holiday exchange programme, all offering a truly unique holiday experience.
Of all the foodstuffs with unlikely origins we’re discussing here, this has to be the most surprising.
Utterly synonymous with Italian food, pasta actually originates around 5,000 miles away, descending from ancient Chinese noodles. Renowned explorer Marco Polo is likely to have brought the recipe back from his travels in the 14th century, since when a wide variety of noodle-based dishes have been created.
Speaking of which, don’t go thinking spaghetti and meatballs is an Italian dish either, as that was invented in America. The Italians do eat meatballs, and do eat spaghetti, but not together.
The Americans are also to blame, or rather thank, for the modern version of pizza whose base, slathered in tomato sauce, bears little resemblance to the original Italian dish, but that would require a whole other entry.
RCI has 141 resorts in Italy, and whether you opt for stunning beaches, Alpine beauty or lovely lakes, there are plenty of options to discover the country’s wonderful cuisines.
Given Peter Kay’s incredulous “Cheese? Cake? Cake with cheese? Am I hearing you right?” exclamation, this delicious dessert could never have been invented in the UK, but nor can the US lay claim to yet another dish with which it’s become inextricably linked.
Like the doughnuts we’re back to ancient Greece for this sweet treat, as moulds for cakes of cheese (“cakes of cheese?”), estimated to be 2,000 years old, were excavated on the Greek island of Samos.
There’s also another Olympic connection too, as cheesecakes - made from flour, wheat, honey and cheese - were supposedly given to the athletes as energy food.
Harnessing that energy, Americans took the idea and ran with it, creating their own versions of the dish using one of their own inventions - cream cheese.
New York doesn’t just have its own version of cheesecake, it’s largely regarded as the best place in the globe to eat it. Eileen’s Special Cheesecakes, The City Bakery, Junior’s and Ferrara are among the world-renowned places worth checking out next time you’re in the Big Apple, whether on a city break or an exchange holiday to the State, where RCI has 24 resorts.
A popular side dish when ordering a Chinese takeaway, the spring roll wasn’t invented in China, but America, where it’s called an 'Egg Roll'.
The dish was created by Chinese immigrants to America who were using what they had on hand to make something that would still seem like the versions eaten back home, but was meant to appeal to American palates.
Thus the light, delicate spring rolls served in China were swapped for much heavier versions made of deep fried dough filled with prawns, noodles and veggies.
Many American cities have Chinese districts known as Chinatowns, with the oldest, and one of the biggest, being in San Francisco. Be sure to visit this colourful, bustling area next time you’re in the Bay City, which is a great destination in its own right. It also makes a good city break while visiting California. RCI has 22 resorts in San Francisco and the Napa area.
Here’s another dish that has become ubiquitous with the US - “there’s nothing as American as apple pie” after all... However, this is definitely a dish us Brits can claim as our own.
The first recorded recipe of this wonderful dessert was written in England in 1381. As well as apples, it included figs, pears and somewhat bizarrely, saffron. Sugar was something of a rare commodity at the time so wasn’t part of the original version, which probably also contributed to the fact that the pastry case was not supposed to be eaten, but rather just a container for the filling.
RCI has 65 resorts in England, and whether you’re taking an exchange holiday on the Cornish coast or in the stunning Lake District, I doubt you’ll have to search too hard to find some apple pie to round off a perfect day.
An extra portion
Like the Queen (or perhaps a burger king?), it’s worth noting that the burger celebrates its existence more than once a year. The UK’s National Burger Day is 24 August, while International Cheeseburger Day (and who doesn’t love cheese on their burger?) is 18 September - make a note on your calendar now.
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