In 1938, The New York Times Thought Cheeseburgers Were a Weird New Food Fad
People love to make fun of The New York Times's trend section: Their regular pieces on the Millennial craze have been dubbed "hate-reads," and their dissection of cultural norms such as oversharing, defriending people in real life, and chopped salad at lunch as "trends" can be hilarious and infuriatingly obvious.
But while their pieces aren't always exactly timely, they will certainly make for interesting reads in a few decades—just like this throwback piece they published in 1938 on a then-new California food fad called cheeseburgers.
When cheeseburger was first mentioned in the October 1938 article, it was in a long list about the "whimsy" of California eateries. Then, nine years later in May 1947, the Times revisited the fad, writing, "At first, the combination of beef with cheese and tomatoes, which sometimes are used, may seem bizarre." Fortunately, their intrepid reporter could see the bigger picture. "If you reflect a bit, you’ll understand the combination is sound gastronomically."
Now, more than 80 years after the paper with all the news that's fit to print took notice of the trend, you can not only ask for gourmet cheeses like brie, goat, or gorgonzola on your burger—or spend upwards of $300 on one—but there are many burger chains where you can order stacks on stacks on stacks of cheeseburger patties.
That weird little West Coast fad has become a multi-billion dollar industry, and cheeseburgers are practically our national food (arguably in hot contention with apple pie) with their very own holiday: National Cheeseburger Day (which occurs on September 18th). Congratulations, America! We did it!
A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2021.