Every cheeseburger has a story, I guess. Or at least I tell a story about every cheeseburger.
Only two weeks in, and I’m already unsure how long I can keep this up. In case you forgot, my resolution for 2016 was to eat 3 cheeseburgers a week. It’s not just that this resolution is asking a lot of me calorie-wise, it’s asking a lot from me emotionally. It’s making me search the dark corners of my psyche to pull up every expectation I’ve ever had for any cheeseburger, and drag it out, center stage, stagelight blaring, and make me examine my cheeseburger cravings. Every cheeseburger has sent me hurtling down a tunnel to self-discovery, and the tunnel is tiled with dark profundity and partially-melted American Cheese.
Long story short, I’m figuring out I’m a real basic bitch when it comes to cheeseburgers, and this whole time I thought I was a hipster. It’s getting real “hey, could I get a pumpkin spice latte cheeseburger,” up in here and I’m standing around awkwardly, not sure what to say or where to put my hands.
If finding out I’m something I thought I hated is the worst part about eating so many cheeseburgers, then the best part is hearing other people explain their perfect cheeseburger to me. I ask a lot of people when they’re describing food, (“where’s the pickle?” “are the onions sweated?” “how far can you squish down the bun til you can feel some resistance?”) and people are SO ready most of the time.
Since I work in a kitchen, it hasn’t been hard for me to monopolize most of the conversations to be about cheeseburgers lately. I’ve gotten a slew of recommendations for local burgers, dreamy recollections about far-away and long-ago burgers, and even more narratives of “dream burgers.” Every person is a unique frickin’ snowflake, and their burgers are not quite as unique, but pretty close.
Bless everyone’s tender hearts – we’re all so very fascinating.
I started off this week by taking a recommendation from work. One of my co-workers recommended this spot to me, and the conversation went like this:
“Oh, and Pause has a good burger.”
“Yup, Pause. On Interstate.”
“Paws. Bad name.”
“Pause. Yeah, not a great name. But good burger. Grassfed…”
“Oh! Pause. That place! It looks like a weird after-school Christian hang-out space.”
“Yeah, it has a weird font.”
At this point another co-worker joined in:
“I hate the way that place looks. Looks like a cafe from the early 2000s.”
“Yeah I was walking by it the other day, and I thought ‘god, I hate how that place looks.'”
I was happy to hear that nearly everyone agreed that the place had an odd look to it, but I decided I should stop being font-racist, step out of my comfort zone and check out Pause. Short-walk from my house, and the second I approached it, I shuddered. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it’s a perfectly nice looking place. Just the place makes me feel how I feel whenever I’m in Florida: all my dreams are dead.
The place was slightly more reassuring on the inside: wood-paneled bar, friendly bartender, Big Star, straight-forward menu. Maybe you shouldn’t be so rude about Florida, I chided myself. Mom is going to get upset about that one.
“One cheeseburger.” The waitor repeated back to me. “Now, how would you like that cooked?”
My response drew to a halt as my mind’s soundtrack hired crickets to sing. How do I want my burger cooked? Whoa…I haven’t been asked that in awhile.
I used to be such a little prat about wanting my burgers cooked rare or medium rare, and lately all I’ve wanted is a fully-cooked through burger. Yikes- I’m being faced with my past, and I no longer know what to say.
“Err, umm Medium? Yeah, medium.” I coughed and tried to look like nothing was weird for me right then. Damn…I’ve been really feasting on diner burgers lately.
It was a nice cheddar cheeseburger. It was $11. Perfectly medium, fresh tasting, albeit under-seasoned beef, and a great bun. The “toppings” were also very nice, but they’re served on the side, which I find to be a big eye-roll. How safe. How free of personality.
How “we don’t really have an opinion about burgers, we just want your parents from out-of-town to not complain about over-priced Portland burgers on Yelp after eating here.”
And I guess that’s how I felt about the entire experience. This tastes like how a pause button feels – but not in a cool way, I wrote down at the time. I looked back at that sentence before writing this blog, and I’m not entirely sure what was going through my mind at the time, but decided I should share it with you all anyway.
Eating a burger at Pause reminded me how I’ve changed, and how I don’t want to look back. Just because something is technically good doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good to me.
So that was that.
The White Eagle
“It’s so dark in here.” “Why don’t you put the burger by the light?” “Oh yeah.”
This is my boyfriend’s favorite burger, and it didn’t occur to me until the moment the burger was going into my mouth that if I didn’t like this cheeseburger he might dump me. Also, if that was the reason he dumped me, I would respect him so much. Now THAT is integrity.
Fortunately, a cheeseburger at The White Eagle ($10.50) is really tasty. Six ounce patty (which I much prefer to an 8 oz patty) which was really well-seasoned (FINALLY), a yummy sauce (THAT APPARENTLY IS A SECRET) that I thought was well-portioned, and good toppings. I was a little disappointed that all the toppings were at the bottom of the burger. Boyfriend Man say he likes that because he feels like it all stays in place better. I feel like it’s just being easy on yourself when you’re assembling the burger, and meanwhile compromising the integrity of the lettuce (which in this case was green leaf.)
I really enjoyed it, even though it didn’t feature some of my favorite elements of a burger. However, it definitely was on the “recommend to a friend” sphere.
Before I put the burger by the light. Hashtag: truth in food photography.
The Cafeteria at My Work
As I mentioned before, I’ve been monopolizing my work place to be a continual Cheeseburger Discussion Zone. I had spent a good chunk of my morning trying to explain myself to my coworker Travis. It mostly orbited around my recent desire to have fully-cooked burgers, and how dorky that made me feel, but through enough pseudo-science and David Change references I might be able to explain how I’m not a complete idiot for wanting that.
“I’m sorry, Travis.” I said, after a particularly long paragraph of ranting. “I just need to explain myself.”
“I know!” He said cheerfully, and evacuated the room for a number of hours.
He eventually came back, pointing at me. “You!” he said.
“What?!!” I said.
“You won’t believe it. Cheeseburgers. In the cafeteria. Today.”
“Shut. Up. No. Way.”
“Way. There’s burgers. And cheese. And toppings. I made mine a double.”
Eventually, the entire kitchen became abuzz with the presence of cheeseburgers in the cafeteria, what this implied, how we were going to build our own, and if this would all be a big mistake.
I mean, I knew walking into this that this would be a “cafeteria burger”. This wasn’t about to be anything too delicious -but boy did it feel exciting.
I anxiously raced down to the cafeteria and hoped that there would still be enough of everything. I found a nearly empty cafeteria, and a sort-of delicious and wellish-stocked looking burger bar.
Ok – straight-up: the patties were gross. Let’s not fool ourselves. Except that cafeteria patties DEFINITELY know how to be seasoned (mass-production is at least a genius in how to use salt), any patty held in a steamwell is going to be a little freaky texture-wise. And indeed it was.
I followed Travis’s lead by making a double cheeseburger, which certainly was an error…it was just too much food, and I slogged back into work because of it. But I just couldn’t look at all this potential in front of me and not capitalize on it. There were just PILES of American cheese, waiting to be slapped into between layers of 1/4 pounds of pre-heated beef and three squirts of mustard.
The main problem with the cafeteria burger was it’s inability to squish together and stay as a unit. Because I assembled this burger myself, I can also be to blame for it’s structure and integrity, but I mostly blamed the hard-sponge like texture of the patty for it’s propensity to slide around like a unit inside of the bun. I’d go into take a bite, and the entire patty would try to escape, slipping off the burger and veering back toward the plate.
Or perhaps GMO patties have developed consciousness and are now self-aware of themselves as a food substance and are revolting against being devoured by the gnashing teeth of the human race. That also seems just as likely.
Regardless, I had a lovely time in the cafeteria that day, pulling apart sticky tater tots from themselves, and dipping them in the remains of ketchup I was able to ejaculate from a nearly empty bottle.
This was an invigorating and emotional week. Can’t wait to see what the next has in store for me in RESOLUTION CHEESEBURGER 2016.