Not-possible-before-the-20th-century writing usually opens my eyes – especially when the product in question is widely available for around $1 – and this is no exception:
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors—in all likelihood, a couple of dozen—and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.
In the case of food, I’ve often called molecular gastronomy the practice of post-ethnic cuisine. Perhaps I should begin carving a niche in my taxonomy for post-industrial dishes, where the modern lettuce-and-tomato-topped interpretation of the ground beef sandwich would take residence with other ethnically-bound but supply-chain-dependent dishes (e.g. the McRib). Maybe Next could take it up as a theme.
Somewhat related: I have dinner plans at Shake Shack tonight.