Is it just me or has every major food magazine in the country had a hamburger its the cover this summer? One of the magazines asked the question, "Did you have a happy meal?" and goes on to report how McDonald's had experienced a state of "Mc Emergencies". Seems the good people out there who frequent their establishments are getting a little FUSSY!

Item One: "The lettuce and tomato will no longer be heated."
Item Two: "The burger bun must now be toasted."

Civilization ascends…

"Lordy, Lordy" I muttered just as Old Miss Kitty would have in her smoke and honey drawl back at the first diner I ever flipped a burger in. It was “Joe's Fireside” in the rural, comfortable, conservative town of Libertyville, Illinois. Miss Kitty was among a stellar group of women who carried the plates at Joe’s. She’d been there about 25 years when I checked into the joint. But she was only somewhat ahead of some of the other gals in terms of tenure; Alice, Claire, Doris, Evelyn had all worked at least 15 each.

Even with breakfast orders still piling in one, of us three cooks would have to break off and get lunch prep done. Jerry, the owner (Joe had gone to the great diner in the sky), would be cooking down in the basement. If it were a Wednesday he’d be making his famous country ribs and sauerkraut.

Along with slicing onions til we cried, tomatoes til we "bled," and pickles til we puckered-slapping and shaping the patties was one of the chores. I still make them the same way…sort of gently throwing the cold, raw meat back and forth between my two hands until the beef just holds together when you grill it.

The burgers held Joe's own secret seasonings mixed into the freshly ground chuck. We weren't allowed to make the patties until the morning was half over so that the spices didn't "go to sleep" in the meat.And we didn't call them quarter-pounders cause they weren't. It was seven ounces, not four and took a full 8 minutes to char-grill since we formed them tall and fat, not flat and skinny.

Of course, we toasted the bun and kept the tomato and lettuce cool. We made them like we liked them. Any good cook will do that.

     I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s my word on food.

Copyright © by Norman Van Aken, 2002
Works consulted: Memory Lane.