O hambúrguer

Levado aos Estados Unidos pelos imigrantes alemães do fim do século XIX, o bife de carne moída logo conquistou o público americano. Depois, já sob a forma de sanduíche, ganhou o mundo e virou um símbolo.

 

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O ano é 1904. Os Estados Unidos se transformam rapidamente na maior potência industrial do planeta. O novo século promete paz e prosperidade para os americanos.

Esse clima de afluência e otimismo vai se refletir na feira mundial de Saint Louis, capital do Missouri, no meio-oeste do país. Ali, multidões tomam contato pela primeira vez com uma iguaria que trinta anos mais tarde viria a ser quase um verdadeiro sinônimo de Estados Unidos: o hambúrguer.

O hambúrguer descobriu a América na segunda metade do século XIX, trazido pelas levas de imigrantes alemães embarcados no porto de Hamburgo, razão pela qual seu primeiro nome no Novo Mundo foi hamburg steak. Era uma comida rústica. Os primeiros a apreciá-la nos Estados Unidos foram os marinheiros que aproveitavam a carne entre dois pedaços de pão para mastigar algo enquanto trabalhavam. Suas origens, no entanto, podem ser encontradas no passado remoto. Durante os séculos XII e XIII, a Europa conheceu as invasões dos chamados mongóis. Na verdade, entre os povos que se agrupavam sob essa denomina-ção estavam os tártaros, tribos nômades guerreiras que habitavam as estepes russas. Os tártaros introduziram na Europa a técnica de moer a carne dura e de má qualidade para torná-la mais digerível. Diz a lenda que os cavaleiros tártaros costumavam levar a carne crua embaixo da sela quando galopavam em suas incursões guerreiras. Na hora de comer, o bife tártaro já tinha se tornado uma pasta. O que se sabe com certeza é que os tártaros foram os que apresentaram o hambúrguer aos hamburgueses. Esses ficaram com a fama de terem sido dos do futuro sanduíche. “Dize-me o que comes e te direi quem és”, escreveu em 1826 o gastrônomo francês Antoine Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826).

O hamburger, de fato, deve a sua popularidade às características da sociedade que o acolheu. A partir do início do século, as massas de trabalhadores americanos necessitavam de algum tipo de alimento rápido, prático e barato e – adequado, em suma, ao ritmo da explosão industrial do país.

Só faltava inventar uma fórmula para aproveitar esse mercado em expansão. Foi fácil. Antes ainda da Feira Mundial de Saint Louis, os americanos já conheciam o carrinho de sorvetes e hot-dogs – a versão americana da salsicha, também trazida por imigrantes alemães. Mas foi somente em 1921 que surgiu a primeira cadeia de lanchonetes do país, chamada White Castle. Vendia-se nelas um hambúrguer cozido no vapor e cheio de cebola. O prato talvez não fosse especialmente apetitoso, mas seu preço com certeza era: 5 centavos de dólar. Pelo seu efeito laxativo, ganharam o apelido de “escorregarores”.

As pequenas lanchonetes da época de 20 eram apenas lugares onde os fregueses sentavam ao balcão. Um ou dois funcionários faziam de tudo desde virar os hambúrgueres na chapa até registrar as vendas. Muito diferentes foram os drive-ins dos anos 30. Pátios de estacionamento grandes e de fácil acesso substituíram a pequena área de serviço na calçada, e garçonetes em tempo integral serviam os esfomeados motoristas. A idéia prosperou – garçonetes até foram substituídas por moças sobre patins. Logo, os clientes faziam pedidos usando telefones em carabinas nos estacionamentos.

Foi nessa época que o cartunista americano Elzie Segar (1894-1938) acrescentou mais um personagem a suas tiras do Popeye, o marinheiro que gostava de espinafre. J. Wellington Wimpy – Pimpão, no Brasil – ficou famoso pelo seu insaciável apetite por hambúrgueres. Uma vez, Popeye ganhou 20 mil dólares apostando que Wimpy não agüentaria dez minutos com um hambúrguer na mão sem comê-lo. O esfomeado personagem segurou-o por 9 minutos e 50 segundos. Em 1937, os irmãos Dick e Maurice Mc Donald abriram um pequeno drive-in na cidade de San Bernardino na Califórna, e revolucionaram o mundo do fast-food. Como todos os outros, eles serviam lanches rápidos para clientes apressados. O drive-in era também o ponto de encontro dos adolescentes da cidade. Por causa dessa clientela, os drive-ins eram identificados como focos de confusão que afugentavam as famílias de respeito. Para mudar essa imagem, em 1948, os irmãos Mc Donald reformularam a loja. Sem garçonetes servindo no carro, a lanchonete perdeu parte do seu apelo para os adolescentes mas em compensação conquistou as famílias. Logo dezenas de pequenos empresários começavam a imitar o novo conceito de lanchonete.

A partir dos Estados Unidos, o hambúrguer conquistou o mundo. A rodela de uns 50 gramas de carne moída entre duas metades de pão redondo, coberta ou não de queijo, acompanhada ou não de alface e tomate, pode ser encontrada em lugares tão distantes entre si como a Austrália e a Áustria, a Jamaica e o Japão. É impossível saber quantos hambúrgueres são consumidos todos os dias no planeta, mas a rede McDonald·s calculou os que saem de suas cozinhas. O resultado é assombroso: 12.528.000 hambúrgueres cada vez que a Terra dá uma volta completa em redor de seu eixo ou 145 por segundo.

As lanchonetes começaram a chegar ao Brasil em 1952, quando o tenista americano Robert Falkemburg fundou o primeiro Bob·s em Copacabana, no Rio. Três anos mais tarde, o empresário Flávio Galante abria em São Paulo os seus Hot-Dogs, lanchonetes destinadas a atrair o público dos cinemas da região da rua Augusta. Como no resto do mundo, também aqui o hambúrguer entrou para a linha de montagem. Com um sistema de licenciamento que permite a proprietários de lojas usar uma marca conhecida, desde que sigam os padrões de qualidade da firma original, algumas lanchonetes dispõem até de computadores que programam o tempo de duração da fritura. De acordo com as regras do Departamento de Agricultura dos Estados Unidos, a carne de hambúrguer deve ser fresca, com até 30 por cento de gordura.

Os nutricionistas admitem que um hambúrguer com fritas alimenta bastante, “mas não deve tornar-se a refeição básica de uma pessoa todos os dias”, alerta Rosemarie Andreazza, da Escola Paulista de Medicina.

Texto: Superinteressante, ed. abril de 1988. Imagens ilustrativas

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