Friday, February 1, 2013

The Hamburger

It's a simple dish. Every beginning cook has tried it.  It's a default, a go-to meal, the answer to "what can we have for dinner that will be ready in a nanosecond?" Those who cook nothing else have been heard extolling their expertise while wielding a barbecue spatula and a beer.

I'm not very good at it.

My paternal grandmother made what I considered the very best hamburger in the world. G'ma tried to take the wind out of my young, admiring sails by sneering that "Of course it's delicious, she uses ground sirloin."  The implication that she could not afford such delicacies was not missed, but I was young and the burgers were tasty so I and my whatever attitude continued to sing their praises.  Those two older women never got along; in retrospect, I'm sorry to say that my behavior may have been a part of it.  I never remember my mother helping in her mother-in-law's kitchen.

My grandmother never put her burgers on bread.  They stood alone, red in the middle, shaped somewhere between a meatball and a super-sized patty, leaning more toward the meatball end of the spectrum.  A knife and fork were required to pierce the crispy outer shell, releasing the inner juices in a tidal wave.  It felt like the plate was smiling back at me.

G'ma froze patties from the kosher butcher, prying them apart with an old knife reserved for that purpose alone.  They sat on the kitchen counter, melting into their paper dividers, being separated from their conjoined twin status as they defrosted.  Plopped on the aluminum foil covered grill pan, shoved under the broiler flames at the top of the oven, removed just before incineration, only the fresh bun and Heinz ketchup could save them. The buns never disappointed; G'ma may not have been much of a cook, but she did appreciate a well crafted piece of bread.

Martha Stewart gave me some tips on creating the perfect burger.  Don't touch it too much.  Make a small indentation on one side.  Turn it only once.  Grind your own beef.

Sure.  I can do that.  All except the grinding my own beef part, and that's only because I gave away the meat grinder Nannie handed down from one of her sisters-in-law. But I think there's more to it than that.  Little Cuter says it's because I don't care, and she's almost right.  I do care.  I'm just not dedicated to the process. I love to eat; I hate to cook.

If anyone wants to come over and prepare the burgers, I promise to be a great sous-chef.  I like to clean and tote and put away, and I'm an enthusiastic giver of compliments.  And, as you can tell, my tastes run to the simple - a burger would be just fine.


  1. I too like a good burger. And I've been able to make them. However, we no longer have our barbecue grill. And the very best burger comes off a grill. So, we don't have burgers around here any more.

    1. You are invited to my house if someone else will cook them!

  2. Hubby makes awesome burgers. He uses something called liquid smoke in them. After reading your post on Friday, we just had to go out for burgers yesterday. Red Robin has awesome burgers. I ate my whole burger. It was awesome.

    Hope you were able to enjoy a good burger too.

    Hope your weekend is going well.

    Megan xxx


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