4 out of 4 stars
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Ronald McDonald, author of The Complete Hamburger does not joke around when it comes to hamburgers! As a member of the family that established the original McDonald’s Brothers Burger Bar Drive-In (the restaurant now known world-wide as simply McDonald’s), Ronald felt the urge to share the story of the true founders of the chain—brothers Maurice “Mac” and Richard “Dick” McDonald. In the preface, the author explains that, though the book was originally written over 20 years ago, it has been updated for today. It is also timely because there is a movie coming out in early 2017 about Ray Kroc, who is often credited as the founder of McDonald’s.
The Complete Hamburger lives up to its title. In this non-fiction book, the author explores many facets of the hamburger, including its history, its evolution, and its consumption. There are recipes, recommendations, and burger superlatives. The forward is by the late Richard McDonald, who explains why he and his brother Mac decided to sell the chain in 1961. The book is split into three distinct sections. First, the author gives a history of the hamburger and of how hamburger chain restaurants became popular. He also talks about Mac and Dick and their journey to open, operate, and eventually sell McDonald’s. In the second section, the author talks about the best burgers in a variety of categories. He gives a list of the best burgers from each state in the US, and he broadens his scope and includes the best burgers in other countries. The third section is all about creating hamburgers. It’s full of recipes McDonald has collected in his travels.
The author begins with history of the sandwich we now know as the hamburger. One of the many highlights of the book is how well-researched every aspect is. In the history section, McDonald goes all the way back to the thirteenth century, when the Mongols became the first burger eaters. He follows the evolution of burgers through Russia, and into seventeenth century Hamburg, Germany, where the burger begins to more closely resemble what we eat today. He also goes into detail about how the burger became a fast food, and how that fast food helped burger chains explode. This is also the section where he discusses how Mac and Dick developed many processes and practices that are still used in fast food burger restaurants today. Despite their innovations, they are often overshadowed by the man who bought them out in the sixties. One of the best parts about the history section of the book is that some of the passages are accompanied by pictures, showing things like original hamburger restaurant buildings, old advertisements, and, of course old photos of Mac and Dick.
Ronald McDonald loves to travel, sample burgers, and collect unusual burger recipes. The second section of the book begins with superlatives. McDonald gives his opinion about the best burgers in categories like coldest burger, most expensive burger, and strangest meats. The author’s sense of humor shines in this section, and it’s full of quips and useful information. Next, he goes through each state in the US, providing information on two or three of the best burgers in each area. For each burger, he gives a brief one- to two-paragraph overview of the restaurant and the burger, as well as contact information for each restaurant. Each recommendation conveniently has the restaurant’s website hyperlinked right from the book. Wrapping up this section, the author talks about the best burgers he has had while traveling to other countries. He also includes recipes for some of these burgers.
The book wraps up with some of the author’s favorite hamburger recipes from different regions in the US and around the world. Each recipe has a short introduction about the region and specific ingredients in the recipe. In this section, burgers take on a new meaning. The author explains that he thinks of a burger as a meal that includes ground beef (or other ground meat), usually served with a starch, like bread, and toppings. With this broad definition, he includes items like burritos and stuffed bell peppers in with the burger recipes.
There are a few typos throughout the book. For example, the caption with the White Tower Detroit photo says, “on of the first…” instead of “one of the first.” In another area, the word “welcoming” is split into “web coming.” However, these errors are negligible, and they do not take away from the overall experience of the book.
Above all, Ronald McDonald loves hamburgers. He loves to eat them. He loves to make them. He loves to talk about them. This passion lends itself very well to writing a book all about hamburgers! He puts his personal touch into all of his writing. I like the way the book is split into recognizable sections. It is well-organized, and it is a book that you will want to keep around for reference if you’re traveling to a new place and want to try the best burger in the area or if you want to use a recipe to make a unique burger at home.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Though there are a few scattered typos, they really did not detract from the reading experience. Unfortunately, The Complete Hamburger is only available as a Kindle edition right now. I would like to have hard copies of this book to keep for myself to use and to give away to friends and family who love burgers! If you enjoy learning the history of food, creating new food, and finding the best burger places around, this is the book for you!
The Complete Hamburger: Beyond the Golden Arches
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