I don’t remember my first taste of a hamburger. Considering its lofty post on the national foodie consciousness these days, this moment would seem to have seared some imprint on my brain that this, this was what food was all about.
The fact is, burgers weren’t even close to claiming the defining moment of my nascent foodiehood. What I do remember is eating ice cream at the kitchen table in my parents’ first apartment, finishing off the one scoop, then asking my mom for another, specifying that it should be served in a clean bowl.
Burgers did enter the scene a few years after this. It was during the long, fierce blast of an icy winter in Missoula, Mont., while my parents were finishing master’s degrees. We were, undeniably, poor. The only burgers we ate for months were venison burgers. And venison meatloaf, roasts and casseroles. For Christmas, it was a big, greasy goose. My mother also received a beautiful buckskin jacket that Christmas from the hunter — my grandfather. I recognize now that this food was his gift of love and great care for us, and one of the only ways he could help with our support. Nevertheless, offer me a venison burger now and I’ll probably say no, thanks.
Somewhere between those days and now, the burger rose from staple to superstar, from a bagful of sliders to monstrous concoctions garnished with gold foil and selling for more than $1,000. We’ve endured seemingly endless television, print and digital discussions of the perfect mix of fat to beef, the perfect grind, the perfect cut to grind, the best cheese. We’ve debated the ultimate toppings, from guacamole and fried eggs to wild mushrooms and bacon jam; we’ve argued about the must-haves when it comes to buns — and possibly even ate (God help us) a burger on a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
Considering all of that, it’s not surprising that I breathe a little sigh of relief just to be served a freshly made burger, half-wrapped in white paper, on a decent buttered and grilled bun with a slab of cheddar cheese, good dills, sliced (unsweet) onion. A great mustard is called for, but in a pinch, plain old yellow American ballpark will do. Ketchup? It’s for the fries.
We don’t go into which we consider the “best” burgers in San Antonio here. We all have our favorites. Here are a few questions, though, to tantalize your burger quotient — and may you enjoy burger month any way you like it.
a) Giada De Laurentiis
b) Alton Brown
c) Bobby Flay
d) Martha Stewart
2. Who said, and where did he say it, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!”
3. For best results when cooking burgers on a grill, you should only flip them once, and not press down on the meat with the spatula because that squeezes out the juice.
c. false and true
a) 1921 in San Francisco
b) 1953 in Kansas City, Mo.
c) 1940 in San Bernardino, Calif.
d) 1948 in Philadelphia
5. A Tex-Mex-style burger was born in San Antonio in the 1960s, called the bean burger — a burger embellished with Cheez Whiz, refried beans and Fritos out of the bag. What was the name of the restaurant where it was introduced?
a) Chris Madrid’s
c) The Malt House
d) Sills Snack Shack
6. Which burger below most qualifies as trendy?
a) Pub burgers
b) Bacon- and cheese-stuffed burgers
c) Kale burgers
d) Burgers sous-vide
7. The English love their fish and chips as Americans love their burgers. But, according to research in Britain, the average English pub sells 160 burgers a week, compared with 90 servings of fish & chips.
2. Wimpy, a character in the Popeye cartoon, a glutton for burgers who rarely had the money to pay for them.
3. c. Flip the burgers over a couple-three times if you want, but don’t press them with the spatula.
7. a, true (according to burgerbusiness.com)
(Burger on the cover of SavorSA today is from Feast, on South Alamo Street.)