Nanny State

The Work of Meat in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction


From a Weekly Standard review of Josh Ozersky's new history of the American hamburger:

As a 1932 brochure puts it:

When you sit in a White Castle, remember that you are one of several thousands; you are sitting on the same kind of stool; you are being served on the same kind of counter; the coffee you drink is made in accordance with a certain formula; the hamburger you eat is prepared in exactly the same way over a gas flame of the same intensity; the cups you drink from are identical with thousands of cups that thousands of other people are using at the same moment; the same standard of cleanliness protects your food.

As the author notes, "Ingram understood before anyone else that he was building, not just a hamburger chain, but an identity, what today would be called a brand."

Over time, other burger businesses would arise. In 1937, a Glendale, California, restaurateur named Bob Wian created the first double-decker hamburger, which proved a tremendous success. He called it the Big Boy (the nickname of a portly six-year-old who worked for him for free food) and the restaurant itself would eventually adopt the moniker. But in order for Big Boys to proliferate around the country, Wian had to embrace the franchising system. (White Castle's Ingram did not, as Ozersky explains, because "he felt [it] would cheapen the White Castle brand; only the 'operators' under his iron control could be counted upon to uphold the standards of the System.")

But neither Ingram nor Wian would be as successful as Ray Kroc. In 1954, the paper cup and blender salesman visited a San Bernardino hamburger joint and was so impressed by the operation and the loyalty of its customers that he offered to go into partnership with (and later buy out) the owners, brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald.

Whole thing here.

My favorite White Castle ad was a poster that used to grace the inside of the franchises sometime back in the 1980s: A pile of the stuff emblazoned with the nutritionally nihilistic legend "Burgers for Breakfast? Why not?" Indeed. For many years, I could think of no compelling counter-argument.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.