Food & Drink

July 1, 2014

Hemingway’s favorite burger is a moveable feast

He was a soldier, boxer, hunter, fisherman, drinker, father and the writer of words and stories that aimed to be, above all else, true and honest and pure.

He was a soldier, boxer, hunter, fisherman, drinker, father and the writer of words and stories that aimed to be, above all else, true and honest and pure.

He also knew how to make one hell of a hamburger.

Ernest Hemingway would have turned 115 this July, and the man behind acclaimed novels such as “The Sun Also Rises,” “A Farewell to Arms” and “The Old Man and the Sea” continues to generate reader interest, and not just in literary circles.

The culinary world buzzed about his work earlier this year when the recipe for “Papa’s Favorite Wild West Hamburger” – typed but with hand-written annotations – was released by John F. Kennedy Memorial Library and Museum in Boston.

The baroque burger, featuring more than a dozen ingredients including India relish, mei yen powder, carrots, ham, apples, eggs, cheese and wine, stands in stark contrast to the author’s famously economical prose.

But make no mistake: This burger is pure Hemingway, larger than life and full of adventure. Esquire magazine deemed it the manliest of quarter pounders, and The Times-Picayune called it “beautiful yet refined.”

The “Wild West Burger” recipe was among thousands of digitized documents released by the library, including papers congratulating Hemingway on winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

After Hemingway’s death in 1961, President John F. Kennedy allowed Hemingway’s fourth wife, Mary Hemingway, to travel to Cuba (where the author lived from 1939 to 1960) and retrieve crates of papers and artwork, according to jfklibrary.org.

Mary Hemingway later exchanged letters with Jacqueline Kennedy to have the remainder of Hemingway’s work archived by the presidential library.

The Paris Review published a version of the recipe in September, but a scanned image of the yellowed document released by the library in February has editing marks with additional ingredients including grated apples, cheese and carrots.

The beginning of the recipe reads: “From Experimenting, Papa’s Favorite Wild West Hamburger. There is no reason why a fried hamburger has to turn out gray, greasy, paper-thin and tasteless. You can add all sorts of goodies and flavors to the ground beef – minced mushrooms, cocktail sauce, minced garlic and onion, ground almonds, a big dollop of Piccalilli, or whatever your eye lights on. Papa prefers this combination.”

Craig Boreth, the author of “The Hemingway Cookbook,” (Chicago Review Press, $22, 240 pages), said he admires the burger, not just for what’s in it, but because of its style.

“It shows a great international flare that he obviously had,” Boreth said.

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