Tuesday, January 9, 2007
January 9: Burger
I rarely eat them anymore. I grew up in grain-fed cow country. Beef was a staple of the diet then, but not anymore. I crave them on occasion. I almost always reward myself after a long hike with one, so often, in fact, that hiking has a sort of Pavlovian effect on me. The craving begins around the halfway point of the hike. Today, I went with a friend who just returned from a month-long trip to Kenya. She wanted a burger. I went along. I'd been craving one since Saturday's hike. Hank's was the place. Home of the Big Okie, the sign said. We inquired about the Big Okie. It's a one-pounder. We settled for the quarter-pound burger. I watched as "Hank" worked the grill. When we ordered, he reached in a metal refrigerator drawer and retrieved five or six perfectly round red burgers, separated by round wax paper disks, and methodically slapped them on the grill. The meat sizzled, as juice and grease bubbled around the edges of the patty. He patted each one with the spatula and waited with one hand on his hip, spatula resting on the grill, until each was ready to turn. Then with a quick flip of the spatula, he slapped them down again. Our burgers arrived in red plastic baskets with wax paper lining, thick, crisp french fries piled high on one side, a golden brown bun topping the burger on the other. Green wisps of lettuce spilled out from under the bun. I watched as my friend took a bite. A smile spread across her face. She said it tasted like home.