Ancient History

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We were on a family road trip to Minnesota to attend my dad’s twentieth high school reunion. It was 1981 and my little brother, Brian, was four years old.

Along the way, we stopped at the usual fast food foisters and slashed and buttoned vinyl boothed family restaurants. Brian’s food order never varied. In one breath he’d ask for hamburgerfrenchfrycoke. Hamburgerfrenchfrycoke. Hamburgerfrenchfrycoke.

Hamburgerfrenchfrycoke is a word in our family dictionary.

Hamburgers, grilled by my dad, were a staple on our menu. Topped with home-grown tomatoes and sour-snapped dill pickles jarred by my parents, nothing could beat a burger eaten on the patio on a warm summer night. When I consider the starring role hamburgers played in my childhood diet, it is surprising how little my own children understand the mighty but humble hamburger.

It wasn’t until Aidan was in Kindergarten when she decided to try her first hamburger. She was disappointed and perplexed by the glaring lack of ham on her hamburger. Trying to explain the origins of the name did nothing to stop the incessant “but where is the ham? Can you put ham on my bun?”

Ryley only recently started liking hamburgers. We grilled a batch for dinner last week and he asked me if I could make his “with meat.” That would be like asking me to make sure I included the pasta in a plate of spaghetti, I explained.

Some may argue it is not a bad thing to spare my kids from the gut-clogging horrors of red meat. The days of serving red meat several times a week are long gone in our society. It must be lean, cooked until it is the color and texture of a cheap brown penny loafer, and placed lovingly on a whole wheat bun with a side of air stained apple slices.

Perhaps that’s why my kids generally turn their noses up at hamburgers?

I want mine medium rare—quietly mooing. I want some grease to drip down my chin when I take my first mongo, jaw-splitting Great White Shark bite. I like melted sharp cheddar cheese, flourescent-orange with the corners draped over the meat like a little coverlet. I like snow-white mayo, exotic mustards, tongue-spanking dill pickles, sweet and cold tomatoes, buttery grilled onions, fluffy leafy lettuce, smooth guacamole, occasionally limp chewy bacon. I like the meat to be still sizzling from the grill. I like the bun to be mistaken for a loaf of bread—the luxury of soft wheat, shiny camel-colored topped with embedded onion or sesame or poppyseeds, wrapping the meat and condiments in a tender hug of meldling layered flavors, colors, textures in my eager mitts.

Delight, ham-free, with meat.

Maybe some random day my kids will understand my love affair with a good burger. If not, I hope there is some food I make that will inspire happy memories of summer nights on the patio. Their palattes will swoon, their senses will be starry-eyed, and all will be served with a smile.

10 comments to Hamburgerfrenchfrycoke

  • Mom-of-mopsy

    I’m hungry just reading your description of your dream burger. That is part of what makes the hot summer endurable, the fresh veggies, and the smell of the barbeque. I’m sure your kids will have their family favorites just like you do.

  • You are killing me over here. That description was amazing. Mmmmmm.

  • bro-de-mopsy

    So honored to be part of the family lexicon! Back in those days, there weren’t a lot of choices for kids to eat, so that is my only defense. That, and the fact that I knew what I liked, it was consistenly good so there was no need to stray.

    You forgot to mention one of my favorite burger toppings – garlic-buttery,sauteed mushrooms! Nothing better!

  • WOW! What a truly inspired description of the not-so-humble burger. I’m not a burger fan, but you almost made me crave one. Awesome!

  • Mmm. Burgers. We had some of those just as you described for our Memorial Day picnic.

    Big fan of burgers over here, even after working at Red Robin the first four months I was pregnant with Syd. Eventually the preggy sickness passed, and burgers again became my friend.

  • amy

    Yum. That’s the way I like them too. . .

  • Shayne

    Ooooh, you made me hungry for a GREAT burger, and it’s 9:00 am here! I agree that medium rare with cheddar and a nice shot of grease on the first bite make for a dream buger!

  • Oh, now I am so hungry & my salmon that we are having for dinner doesn’t sound quite so delightful. At our house, nobody knows what a hamburger is either. But they do love burgers, but they only know what Cheeseburgers are. The few times we’ve been invited out and they were served HAMburgers, my kids looked pathetically at them as if someone was actually serving them ham on a bun.

  • Even though I don’t like all those things you mentioned on my burger, you have such a way with descriptive language that my mouth is watering!

  • Oh my. That is the most delectable description of a burger I have ever read. Is it acceptable to eat burgers for breakfast? It’s only 9 AM here ….

    Yum …

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