In honor of Hemingway's birthday, I decided to finally try my hand at making the infamous Papa's Favorite Wild West hamburger. The novelist's meticulous recipe resurfaced in 2013 when the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum took on the task of digitizing over 2,000 documents found in Hemingway's home in Cuba. Complete with notes in the margin and sensory instructions, it's exactly what you'd picture in a recipe written by an author.
This burger is the edible representation of Hemingway's iceberg theory, 1/8th you can see and 7/8th is submerged. The recipe starts off simply enough with ingredients you may expect to find in a burger -- garlic, parsley, sage and an egg. But then come the hidden 7/8ths, the unexpected ingredients that linger beneath the surface -- capers, green onions, India relish, and wine.
The recipe also calls for a few dated, hard-to-find spices, namely Spice Islands Beau Monde and Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder, which is essentially just MSG. I opted to skip these, partially for health reasons, but mainly because it's nearly impossible to find these spices unless you turn to Amazon. Instead, I opted for to add some paprika to spice it up a bit. Once I mixed the ingredients into the meat, I followed the instructions and made the one-inch thick, fat, juicy patties with my hands.
Hemingway preferred his burgers pan-fried, so we neglected our new grill for a night. (You really do need to heat up a skillet for this one. We learned this the hard way.) As soon as the patty starts sizzling in the pan and the aroma of garlic, sage and crispy meat starts to fill the kitchen, you won't regret all the mincing it took to get to this point.
With complex flavors and the perfect texture, it was easy to understand why Hemingway went to all the trouble of experimenting to get it just right.
Because you have to open a bottle of wine, in true Ernest fashion, we finished it. As Juan and I sipped our wine and savored our burgers, I couldn't help but recall one of my favorite Hemingway quotes:
"We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other." A Moveable Feast
While perusing the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum's Ernest Hemingway archives, I came across images that illustrated Hemingway's art of enjoying good food, wine and company.
"This wine is too good for toast-making, my dear. You don't want to mix up emotions with a wine like that. You lose the taste." The Sun Also Rises
"There was much wine, an ignored tension, and a feeling of things coming that you could not prevent happening. Under the wine I lost the disgusted feeling and was happy. It seemed they were all such nice people." The Sun Also Rises
"Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary..." A Moveable Feast
"The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink... After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly." A Moveable Feast
If you have a minute to share your favorite Hemingway quote or novel, I'd love to hear...
Photos from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum's Ernest Hemingway archives