Provisions: The Hemingway Burger

We found Hemingway's recipe, made it, ate it, and washed it down with beer
Hero hemingway header.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Apr 29, 2014 | By HB HQ & Timmy Malloy

ot too long ago, we unearthed Hemingway’s other iconic piece of writing—his favorite burger recipe. There’s a touch of Jake Barnes in the preface (“there is no reason why a fried hamburger has to turn out gray, greasy, paper-thin and tasteless”), and a splash of Santiago in the Spice Island Sage.

And so we thought, a taste is worth a thousand words. Naturally, our next step was to send the recipe to Chef Timmy. Lucky for literary historians, he was game to recreate this simple masterpiece of red meat. Timmy followed some of Papa’s rules (“It says mix with your fingers, so I’m going to mix with fingers”) to a tee, but wasn't afraid to switch up some antiquated ingredients like "Mei Yen Powder (ed: which is basically MSG)" with modern equivalents before digging in. 

Our official findings report that the Hemingway Burger satisfies a grumbling stomach. In an effort for authentic research, we prepared it sans toppings (there’s an added note for grated cheddar, but we withheld). The patty was salty, but not overpowering so. With all the ingredients packed in, the mix of flavors took the lead, outweighing the straight beef flavor. Cheese would be a welcome addition, as would a slice of tomato, some lettuce, and a few slivers of red onion. 

Timmy’s opinion: “if someone gave this to me, I wouldn’t be upset.” He set the burger back on the plate. We tried and agreed. Then Timmy went back for another bite. It sat for another minute, then Timmy grabbed it again. “I keep going back to this thing,” he said. 

The burger's mystery wasn’t visually apparent. It subtly satisfied. It stayed with you, caused you to re-evaluate, taste again. Like a good novel, it inspired a re-read. And, for a man given to excesses, it fit the Hemingway stereotype. Don’t calorie count this thing. Don’t cholesterol check. Just enjoy, wash down with your favorite IPA or red wine, and repeat as many times as needed.

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, like minced mushrooms, cocktail sauce, minced garlic and onion, ground almonds, a big dollop of Piccalilli, or whatever your tastebuds might fancy. Papa prefers this combination [adapted by chef Timmy Malloy].

Papa’s Favorite Hamburger

1 lb. Ground Beef

2 cloves Garlic, minced

2 Green Onions, finely chopped

1 heaping teaspoon Pickle Relish

2 tablespoons, Capers

1 teaspoon Paprika

1/2 teaspoon Salt and Pepper

1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork

1/3 cup White Wine

1 tablespoon vegetable oil


Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into the meat with a fork or your fingers. Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox [icebox = refrigerator] for ten or fifteen minutes while you set the table and make the salad [not included]. Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible.

Now make four fat, juicy patties with your hands. The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny. Have the oil in your frying-pan hot but not smoking when you drop in the patties and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes. Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again. Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burger should be crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy.

For more, visit Chef Timmy at Local's Corner.

Images by Jeff Masamori. ©Huckberry. Recipe from BBC.