I remember a night many years ago, something like 35 of them, we were on Bond Street in Bristol after an arduous game of skittles. One of our group decided she wanted something to eat so in we all filed to McDonalds. When her turn came, she said in unmistakable Bristolian: “A quarter pounder please, with none of the shit in it.” How we all tittered! Fancy having the brass neck to say that. However, behind my tittering I knew this woman spoke for me, too. I have spent a lifetime complaining about having that “shit” in it.
Apart from high fat burgers at home, I am pretty sure the first burgers I ate were from a takeaway in the harbour at West Bay in Dorset. The owner removed a burger from the fridge, peeled the paper off and put it on a hot plate. It sizzled away, next to some already cooked fried onions. Near the end, the burger bun would be toasted and before you knew it, the burger was wrapped in a serviette ready to consume. And that was it. A burger bun, burger and onions. I had at least one, sometimes two or three, every day. But as society demanded more sophistication in its foods, so burgers became a victim.
McDonalds have always attempted to drown their burgers in mayonnaise, mustard seeds, green stuff and the devil’s accompaniment gherkins. Now, I find cheese an acceptable addition and fried onions essential, but why the other stuff? I don’t even have ketchup on mine. I buy a burger because I want a beef burger.
Nowadays, burgers have become very niche products. It’s not enough to have a patty. “Would you like yours with brisket, jalopenos and burger sauce, in a brioche roll? The sauce will ensure that by halfway through eating it you are essentially drinking mulch?” No. Just a bloody burger, thank you very much. “Then how about some relish, crispy onions, sweet cured bacon, creamy blue cheese, French mustard and a hundredweight of lettuce? Oh – and there’s the fries. Dirty hot fries? Cheese fries? Sweet potato fries? And how about some deep fried pickles with ranch dip?” No. Just bring me a fucking burger, with a little slice of normal cheese and some freshly fried onions in a fucking bread roll. Christ on a bicycle.
But these days, from downmarket branded burgers to hipster burger fare, a beef burger in itself is not enough, to everyone except me. Can these companies provide me with a product without all that “shit” in it?
A few years back, I discovered the best burger of the lot: the one that is served at youth football tournaments by amateur cooks, basically barbecue food. It was amazing. A totally bland roll, lovely fried onions and a good old fashioned burger. Granted, when I looked at the burger composition when it was my turn to serve I did feel slightly queasy. You know, “Beef heart, cereal. loads of stuff steamed from the animal carcass, colouring” and Christ knows what else but once I’d recovered from the shock I had another one.
Simple is often best and trust me I should know. When I say I want a burger, I literally mean it, and without all the extraneous stuff and instead of loading it with gherkins and lettuce – healthy food has no place in a burger – ask me if I want it. It’s not too much to ask, is it?