Hamburger Relish in 1970's Southern California?
- David Naimark Oct 5, 2004 12:43 AM
In the 1970's every hamburger that my parents would buy for me in Southern California at hamburger stands always had a slightly sweet, tangy flavor that suddenly disappeared in the 1980's. What was this taste? Was it some kind of hamburger relish? I'd love to find out so I can make my hamburgers taste circa 1972.
Don't think this is it, sweet pickle relish is still widely available and widely used.
Depends upon where the hamburgers were purchased. Almost all the major chains had a ubiqitous "secret sauce" that was based on some version of either Russian or Thousand Island dressing. All of them have done serious modifications to their 70s formulations.
There was an extensive article in Nations Restaurant News last month about the turn-around in McDonald's in the last year to 18 months. A significant reason for their improvement has been the return to the "original" Big Mac sauce when they brought a retired operations specialist out of retirement. He contacted their former manufacturer (which I suspect was Ventura Foods) to see if they still had the original sauce recipe. They didn't, but an equally old-timer found the original hand-written recipe in the manufacturee's archives. Within weeks of returning the Big Mac to it's original formulation, sales began taking substantial increases. So I guess the moral of this story is to never under-estimate the power or allure of "sauce", it can make or break a product. Or don't under-estimate the taste memory of millions of baby-boomers ;-)
So David, my first suggesetion would be to try 1,000 Island and tweak it to fit the taste you remember.
Another perfect reminder is Knott's Steak relish. I think it was the lead style that is now in a similar way duplicated at The Pacific Dining Car for the 53 years I've been going there and at Monty's Steakhouse. I remember as a kid going to a hamburger place in Hollywood called Tips on Vine St. just north of Hollywood Blvd. They used the thousand island which I find best duplicated By Bob's Big Boy which you can find at almost any supermarket.
I agree with the recommendation of Del Monte Hamburger Relish which has more of a tomato look and taste than their Del Monte Sweet Pickle relish which is made with real sugar. Del Monte also makes a yellow mustard hot dog relish. My favorite for hamburgers is the Hamburger Relish but for hot dogs I like their sweet pickle relish. Don't know if it will remind you of the 70's sauce but they have been around a long time.
Del Monte Cafe
1642 Del Monte Blvd, Seaside, CA 93955
The only hamburger stand that I went to in the 70's was Foster's Freeze and that was just for onions rings and/or a banana-nut milkshake.
But, I do remember a hamburger at Bob's Big Boy restaurant having the sweet and tangy flavor. They called it their "special relish" and I think that was a sweet pickle relish mixed with ketchup. It was red and had pickle bits in it. They were a pretty popular hamburger place in Southern California.
Anyway, you can probably buy some Bob's Big Boy hamburger relish from them and maybe see if that's it. I don't think they've changed their recipe. Maybe contact one of their restaurants or shoot them an e-mail (at firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Hellman's used to make a "Hamburger Spread" that was heavy on the relish, with a base similar to Thousand Island dressing, but heavier on the tomato, and less mayo. Unfortunately, they quit making it quite some time ago.
You might try topsecretrecipes.com - if you contact the author through the website, you may be able to get the product you seek, or, at least, a recipe for it. Good luck!