If you ever watched the Popeye cartoons of years past, you will remember Wimpy who always told people he was trying to get money from, "For a hamburger today, I will gladly pay you Tuesday." Old Wimpy sure loved his hamburgers. So do I.
It is hard to remember exactly when I had my first hamburger
but that cooked meat inside a flat bottomed, rounded top bun, with tomato, lettuce, pickles and sometimes cheese, led to many laughs with Mom for decades. Here is the story she thought was funny:
When I was perhaps 9 or 10 years old and my younger sister 4 or 5, we often traveled by car across country from wherever the Navy had stationed Dad, he and Mom in the front seat, my sister and I in the back, going to or from visiting relatives. When we stopped for a meal, my sister and I typically said in unison we'd like "A hamburger, French fries and a Coke"
although it was as likely RC Cola or some such.
Over the years Mom loved to tell us of one particular trip when Dad, with a stern look on his face
and a firm tone to his voice, told us kids that when we stopped for dinner that particular night he wanted us to order a hot meal with vegetables
. Later, we sat at a table in a Howard Johnson's and were reminded of ordering a hot meal.
The waitress came, smiled and asked, "What would you kids like for dinner?" Together my sister and I said, "A hamburger, French fries and a Coke." But our order was overturned by Dad who asked for something like meatloaf (still hamburger, right?), mashed potatoes and gravy and a vegetable.
Later in high school
, Zippy's was one place to go but the town's best burgers were at Dog 'N Suds where I worked for three years. The Texas Burger was a forerunner of the Big Mac with three pieces of bun, two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese. The Pizza Burger was a quarter pound of beef filled with mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce. Delicious.
During college we hung out at the Rocket Burger that must have had unremarkable burgers because I don't recall how good or bad they were.
Then, as I got older, McDonald's, Burger King and Burger Chef appeared. But who could forget the North's contribution -- White Castle -- duplicated in the South by Krystal? Tiny square burgers it took only two bites to eat. Yum, yum.
Once, an uncle had a party for our family and other relatives and I went with him to get White Castles -- 300 of them, plus fries, of course. I had never seen so many bags of burgers. He and I must have eaten a dozen of them on the way home.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good hot dog too, but that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say, if you have never eaten a hot dog from a street vendor in Chicago or New York City, you have missed an exquisite gastronomic delight.
But for me, a hamburger, grilled on an open grill, with toasted bun, cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickle, what some call California style, will continue to be a sandwich of choice.
Now, which do I go out for, a Big Mac, Whopper or a dozen little square Krystals? Decisions, decisions.