Saturday, September 09, 2006

What is the difference between Salisbury steak and hamburger?

Who's asking: Dad

Dad asked this yesterday, and I said, "I don't know -- Salisbury steak has gravy, and hamburger doesn't?" I got home and looked it up, and sure enough: Salisbury steak is a steak-shaped patty of ground beef (i.e., hamburger) covered with a brown sauce, and sometimes onions. According to H.L. Mencken, the term "Salisbury steak" came into popular use as part of the anti-German reaction during the First World War, a 1917 version of "freedom fries."

Does anyone eat Salisbury steak outside a cafeteria or hospital? If anyone reading this blog has ever deliberately cooked Salisbury steak from scratch and served it to his or her family, I'd like to hear about it -- and also to hear whether that happened in the last 30 years.

The other day I commented about how fashions change in punctuation. Fashions change in food, as well. One of the great pleasures of Megan Abbott's excellent first novel, Die a Little, is the descriptions of the food the main character and her sister-in-law prepare for their cocktail parties and barbecues. Die a Little is set in the 1950s, the golden era of canap├ęs and ambrosia and gelatin-based salads.

I don't believe I've eaten ambrosia (a salad of mandarin oranges and shredded coconut) since a church pot-luck in high school, and I still shudder at the memory of a tomato aspic I once tried at a similar event. Sometimes progress is a good thing.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll bet the tomato aspic was something I made for your Mom as we both liked it and none of the chldren did! I really put little shrimp into mine. The first time I made it, I put in all the ingredients and simmered away for a bit and then it said to strain and I did it over the sink. Too bad it was the stuff in the strainer that was to go down the sink and not the broth.
Sorry that your Dad in laid up. Tell him Hi.
Sally

AnswerGirl said...

Quite possible, in which case I'm sorry... but please, no need to make one for me!

Kathleen said...

I've never made salisbury steak but I did happen to watch Alton Brown's Good Food's episode on cube steak. Cube steak is a piece of round steak that has been tenderized with a "cubing" tool of some sort that's broken up the fiber by creating a grid pattern on the meet. Every region of the country has a variation...chicken fried steak in Texas, swiss steak in Minnisota...it's Salisbury in the Northwest I believe. (there are also those who swear it's only salisbry if you use ground beef.) His recipe for Swiss Steak actually looked quite tasty. I might have to try it!

AnswerGirl said...

Ha! I have actually tenderized a piece of top round using that cubing tool (if it's what I'm thinking of, it's a hammer with one side that looks like a pointy waffle iron). But that was just because I had a piece of meat to cook, and wanted to hammer something...

getalife said...

Salisbury Steak? No way! It has always been a cafeteria entre to me. Strangely enough, I would however pay extra for a 'Gourmet Burger'. Go figure.

beabeabay said...

Coming from my dutch background, it is hamburger,with bread crumbs, eggs, salt & pepper,browned, then simmered in sauce,(gravy) of cream of mushroom soup and sour cream... good comfort food and yes I make it for my family when requested.

Michelle Candy said...

Does nuking up a Hungry Man Salisbury Steak dinner count as cooking it outside of a cafeteria?? Because that one I've done twice :)

Anonymous said...

I actually make Salisbury Steak at least once every week or so. I grew up on it and it's comfort food for me. As well as Chicken Fried Steak... :)

Anonymous said...

I came across this post while trying to figure out the difference between Salisbury steak and Hamburger steak. I grew up calling a patty of ground beef that is simmered and smothered in brown gravy Salisbury steak...my husband refers to it as Hamburger steak. I make it every couple of months and its a favorite! I am actually making it tonight! Yum!

Anonymous said...

I'm cooking cube steak right now, but I have made salisbury steak for my family in the past.