Pasadena. A city of flowers and football, beautiful vistas, stately mansions, historical architecture, a world class university, fine dining. The Crown City, indeed.
Then there’s this cheeseburger thing.
If Pasadena didn’t have enough to brag about, it is claiming the cheeseburger as its own.
Not long after the last flower pedal from the Rose Parade was swept up off of Colorado Boulevard, the citizens of the world were being invited to Cheeseburger Week, a celebration that will involve 40 bars and restaurants vying to win accolades for their creations.
And, of course, this being Pasadena, there is even a wine-pairing event.
The event which runs the gamut from gastronomy to gluttony will he held from Jan. 10-15. Bring lots of napkins, Pepto-Bismol and let your belt out several notches.
After all, it’s about time you blew your post-holiday diet.
So why is this pristine, proud and occasionally arrogant city paying homage to the ultimate working class meal?
According to legend, the aptly named Lionel Sternberger is reputed to have invented the cheeseburger in 1926 at the age of 16 when he was working in his father's Pasadena sandwich shop, "The Rite Spot," and "experimentally dropped a slab of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger."
Or maybe not. Another theory explains that a derelict entering the establishment from Colorado Blvd. requested the meal specifically and Sternberger made his development right then and there. A third handed-down tale describes where he inadvertently burned a burger patty and slapped on a cheese slice to mask his error.
Then there are competing legends.
An early example of the cheeseburger appearing on a 1928 menu for the Los Angeles restaurant O'Dell's which listed a cheeseburger smothered with chili for 25 cents, according to historical records. Independent public television station KCET reported that a person would have had the additional option to added spaghetti as an additional topping to their chili smothered cheeseburger for a total cost of 40 cents at this same eatery.
Other restaurants say they invented the cheeseburger. For example, Kaelin's Restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, said it invented the cheeseburger in 1934. One year later, a trademark for the name "cheeseburger" was awarded to Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colorado. According to Steak 'n Shake archives, that restaurant's founder, Gus Belt, applied for a trademark on the word in the 1930s.
But Sternberger seems to have won the lion’s share of credit for inventing the iconic burger. After all, if you can’t believe a 16-year-old fry cook, who are going to trust?
Mr. Sternberger would not recognize the monster he unleashed on the world nearly 100 years ago.
Nowadays, we have a bacon cheeseburger that has the bacon and cheese stuffed inside the patty, a mozzarella-stuffed burger, barbecue bacon cheddar smokehouse burger, Philly cheesesteak burger, peppercorn bacon cheeseburger or a Tex-Mex burger.
There are pimiento cheeseburgers, Cajun turkey cheeseburgers, cheddar burgers with balsamic onions and chipotle ketchup, green chili cheeseburgers. Even meatloaf cheeseburgers.
The one thing they haven’t developed is a low-cal burger, at least one you'd want to eat. Your basic cheeseburger with condiments and bacon weighs in at 595 calories and contains 33 grams of fat (50% of your daily value) and 106 milligrams of cholesterol (35% of daily value).
Throw in any other ingredients and you’ll need a calculator to sort it out.
As for me, I love me some cheeseburgers. But why really grills my sirloin is the patty melt.
For the uninitiated, the patty melt is a burger topped with cheese and grilled onions and served between slices of rye bread, all of which is grilled in butter. It was reportedly first served by Tiny Naylor’s drive-in restaurant chain.
It’s getting to be dinner time. My choices are boiled chicken with a side of broccoli florets or a cheeseburger and fries.
I’ve already made up my mind.