No slugs were harmed in the making of this five-cent sandwich.
If the thought of slugs crawling out from your hamburger puts you off, fear not. A slugburger is simply meat (usually beef or pork) combined with a starchy filler and fried to a crisp. Top the patty with mustard and onion, slide it inside a hamburger bun, and you’ve got yourself a slice of Depression-era ingenuity.
To cope with the scarcity of affordable beef during the Depression, burger flippers in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee employed the handy practice of “meat extending.” Rather than toss a mound of pure ground beef or pork on the grill, cooks cut their patties with potato flour. The result was a surprisingly satisfying burger that was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Purveyors of the slugburger slung it for five cents, also referred to as a “slug.” The trick helped the animal-protein supply go further and reduced prices for penny-pinching customers, which was almost everyone.
After the Depression, slugburger fans didn’t abandon the fried sandwich. Instead, they switched up the recipe. Rather than use potato flour and animal fat, Southern cooks now rely on soybean meal and vegetable oil to add that crispy, greasy grit. The slugburger love even extends to an annual festival that’s been thrown in Corinth, Mississippi, since 1987.
According to “sluglore” from the festival’s website, there are other theories as to the origin of the burger’s name. Slug was a term for a counterfeit coin, and slugburgers are, in a way, only posing as real burgers. Then there’s the fact that a slugburger left unattended will become a cold, soggy patty that resembles a certain slimy gastropod. Even worse, overindulging in the burger may cause you to feel “as if someone slugged you in the stomach.” Hey, at least no slugs were harmed in the making of this meal.
Where to Try It
White Trolley Cafe1215 US-72, Corinth, Mississippi, 38834, United States
Score a cheap slugburger in Corinth (home of the slugburger festival) from this old-fashioned diner.