Americans love hamburgers, and I'm a red-meat – I mean red-blooded – American.
I've always reveled in the pleasant ritual of eating burgers, any burgers. Could there be a bad burger? Nah. I don't think that's possible.
Yet, McDonald's announced last week that its Angus Burger is outta here. The $4,
third-pound, cow patty is being put out to pasture.
Industry analysts speculated that customers' strained wallets and McDonald's dollar menu were the reasons behind the Angus Burger's departure. Mickey D's did not confirm that, but I can believe it. I often drive through our local McDonald's and order one McDouble and one Grilled Onion Cheddar Burger from the dollar menu for my thrifty wife, who then munches in pleasure while I try to rustle up something with no wheat in it for me and my wheat-free diet.
If I want a hamburger these days, I usually make my own tasty burger creation, using wheat-free buns I get at the Scott Air Force Base commissary. But before I was wheatless in St. Louis, I ate plenty of burgers at places all over America. Charles Kuralt, the late and great CBS news and feature reporter, once said: "You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars." I know exactly what you were talking about, Charles.
Back to the Angus Burger, I must say it's sad to see it go. It was comforting just knowing it was available nearby in case – on my one day each month that I allow myself to consume some wheat products – I decided to scarf down an Angus Burger in honor of my grandfather, who raised black angus cattle on his farm north of my hometown.
Some of my friends, who pride themselves in dining at real restaurants, guffaw at my lust for burgers, even the lowly McDonald's form of ground-beef matter. Hey, I began devouring McDonald's burgers many moons ago, when I was a squirt, when McDonald's little hamburgers were 15 cents, french fries were 10 cents, and milkshakes were 20 cents. Let's see; that means I could get a burger, an order of fries and a chocolate shake for 45 cents – all that unhealthful junk for just 45 cents. I loved it!
Thus began my passionate, life-long affair with the burger – to include the hamburger, the cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger, guacamole burger with jalapenos and queso blanco, mushroom and swiss burger, double cheddar burger, In-N-Out Double-Double, Steak 'n Shake's double steakburger with cheese, Burger King's BK Triple Stacker, and then there was the famous grease burger at Dave's pool hall in Lebanon, Ill. Many more burgers exist, but I didn't want to say "and the list goes on and on." Darn. There I went and said it.
Dave's grease burgers, unfortunately, no longer exist. Dave passed away years ago, but when I was growing up in hometown Lebanon, the best edible thing on earth was a Dave burger. It was so good that still today I can visualize in high-definition our beloved burger chef Dave in his t-shirt and apron, working his magic over that big grill, sweating from the heat of the smokin'-hot grill and from the sweltering, summer-night air. The lack of air-conditioning just added to the character and charm of the joint. Imagine heavyweight Dave in that white t-shirt and soiled apron, with a toothpick in his mouth and tuft of gray hair hanging over his forehead, asking you how you wanted your burger. Then he turned his full body to face the grill, where he arranged his line of beef patties, flipping some of them, throwing American cheese on others and topping some of the almost-done ones with burger-bun tops. His face and arms glistened from his sweat, and some of his perspiration probably dripped onto our beef patties, seasoning them with some more saltiness, making them official Dave burgers. We'll never forget you, Dave!
Of all the kinds of hamburgers I've eaten, my favorite is simple – that would be one patty, a slice of American cheese and a layer of thin-sliced dill pickles. "When people pile seven things onto one burger, it makes me nuts," Bobby Flay contends. I hear you, Bobby, although I occasionally pile on lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and a few condiments. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I'm in a simple mood. Sometimes I'm in a pile-it-on mood. But I'm always in a burger mood.
My friend Norio Muroi from Tokyo, Japan, is like a Japanese version of me. He, too, could eat a burger everyday. In fact, when he visited the States for the first time, about a year ago, he stopped by my hometown for a few days and consumed a red-blooded American burger each day. Good thing I hadn't started my wheat-free regimen, because on the first day, we ate the famous cheeseburgers at Ron's Lounge. We sat down for lunch the second day at Steak 'n Shake for double steakburgers with cheese. And on the third day, we consumed big, thick cheeseburgers at Hardee's. Muroi-san said his favorite burger was Steak 'n Shake's double-beef concoction of utter deliciousness. Good choice. The man could easily survive in America if he had to.
I make a lot of noise when I eat burgers. By that, I mean I ooh and ahh a lot – maybe too much. I can't help that it sounds more like I'm making love to the burger than like I'm eating it. I guess I should try to tone it down a little. I could keep it simpler, perhaps like Samuel L. Jackson's Jules of "Pulp Fiction" fame: "Ummmmmm. This is a tasty burger." I'm sorry. I don't know if I can do that; I don't think I can be that subdued. I've got to moan and groan some oooohs and ahhhhhs as I thoroughly enjoy my juicy sacrifice to the burger gods.
After last week's announcement of the Angus Burger's demise, McDonald's has announced this week that it's beefing up its menu with three new Quarter Pounders. The three versions are to be the Bacon and Cheese Quarter Pounder, the Deluxe and the Habanero Ranch. Well, bless my burgerness. So long, Angus. Hello, your quarter-pound excellency. Welcome to my burger world!
Now, I've got to check my calendar and determine which day next month I'm allowed to have some wheat. Then I have to determine Bacon and Cheese Quarter Pounder or Habanero Ranch. How about both? Sweet.