Burg-Virg ’07

Andreae Prozesky is not a total freak for never having eaten a burger before. No.

Food Nerd confession time: until last Wednesday, I had never eaten a hamburger.

Now, I’m not a total freak. I have had burgers of various sorts. Innumerable chicken burgers, grilled or fried. I’ve had fish burgers. I’ve had veggie burgers composed of any combination of chickpeas, lentils, tofu, rice, beans, and bulghar. And, lest you think me wussy in the face of meat, I have eaten moose burgers, caribou burgers, and bison burgers, thank you very much. I figured I was doing okay in the burger department.

But when my admission of lifelong 100%-all-beef-hamburgerlessness was heard by a tableful of my dear friends and colleagues, it was met with disbelief and a dash of horror.

“What do you mean, you’ve never had a hamburger? You’ve never even had a bite of someone else’s hamburger? What about parties when you were a kid? What about barbecues?”

Sorry, friends. I’m not the type to go about taking bites of other people’s food, so no to that one. As a child I rejected meat of most kinds, and at parties I was placated with peanut butter and jam on burger buns (a flavour-texture memory that will surely stay with me all my life.) And as for barbecues, well, by the time anything goes on the grill, I’ve usually eaten all the potato salad and am on the verge of a carbohydrate coma.

So that’s that. No hamburgers for me.

This, I have learned, is unacceptable. There is no good reason why, in our burger-obsessed world, a nearly thirty-year-old non-vegeterian should go on living like this.

An intervention was called. Led by master of burger-makery (and drummery) Al Pierson, a group of saviours descended upon the humble Food Nerd laboratories with beef-lust in their eyes. Diana Daly (songstress and girl reporter), Dana Cooper (recent ECMA blogger and this issue’s Storefront shopkeep), and a visiting John Lennox (Chicago-based, St. John’s-frequenting singer-songwriter) walked me through the proper burger-making and burger-eating process.

Most of you will probably know how to make a half-decent hamburger: Ground beef plus flavourings of choice, perhaps a couple eggs and some breadcrumbs to help bind it all together, cooked to whatever degree you like in a skillet or on a grill. Since the fast-food places tell you right in their commercials how much meat goes into their patties, even I know that I should be expecting something around ¼ of a pound. Left on my own I could probably figure it out, but I’m not going to argue with a bunch of people who want to cook me food.

Al’s recipe is below, so I won’t go too much into it here, but I did garner a few interesting bits of burger wisdom from him. Firstly, once the flavourings and crumbs and eggs and what-have-you had been added into the ground beef, Al began some kind of ritualistic thwacking of the big ball of meat, in which he repeatedly lifted it up out of the bowl and flipped it back in, as though he were dribbling some kind of water-filled, half-deflated basketball. I wasn’t taking very good notes at the time, so the only detail I have about this technique is “it’s good for the meat.”

Secondly, and this one I managed to scrawl down: “there is a common misconception that you are supposed to take your spatula and flatten down the patties as they cook. This serves only to dry them out.” Al’s burgers may not be the most uniformly-shaped in town, but, damn it, they’re not dried out either.

So how do I express my joy without a proper burger vocabulary?

Of all the hamburgers that could have been my first, I’m so glad it was this one. It was just like the movies said it would be–thick, juicy, meaty, hearty, and comedically messy with its surfeit of condiments and cheese and bacon and vegetable accompaniments. It went well with beer, and with the musical stylings of Willie Nelson in the background.

My kitchen smelled like meat for three days, and I didn’t even mind.

Send your questions, comments, suggestions and confessions of burger virginity to
dreae@thescope.ca