There is a character from Popeye, the Sailor Man comic strip, named Wimpy. He is most famous for the quote, “I’ll gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” When I was a kid, I would actually get hungry whenever Wimpy’s scene would come on TV. I would watch him take bites out of his cartoon burger and I would feel a little jealous. Even back then I knew Wimpy was a swindler and I knew the other characters were being duped. But what I didn’t appreciate at the time was that the level of currency for hamburgers was very HIGH. Wimpy is an intellectual character so his advice is valuable whenever he gets around to advising. Can you imagine being paid in hamburgers?
On half days during the last few weeks of high school, a bunch of us seniors would gather around a TV at our friend Bill Anderson’s house to watch Eddie Murphy in his stand up comedy show called Delirious. I think it was on “ON” TV for any of you dinosaurs out there. Not only was Eddie Murphy’s outfit unbelievable (tightest red leather pants and jacket, no shirt) and his use of profanity, a high schooler’s dream come true - but his topics were the funniest things I had ever heard. I remember literally crying with laughter when Eddie described his mom’s hamburgers as "house burgers" made big and round like a meatball instead of flat like the ones at Mc Donald’s. Eddie, as all kids, wanted Mc Donald’s. Instead, his mom made a burger with ground meat, egg, green peppers, onions and Wonder Bread. I thought my parents were the only ones who did that because we are Filipino plus they were too practical to get hamburger buns. Thanks to Eddie’s hamburger shtick, I felt totally American and it was great knowing I wasn’t the only one having those house burgers.
There are a lot of really good restaurants that serve hamburgers. MPLS/St. Paul Magazine puts out an issue revealing the top burgers in the Twin Cities every year. In my opinion, it’s tough to screw up a hamburger but at the same time, it’s not easy to create the perfect one. I’m off to Southern CA for a quick 30 hour trip and of course I will hit "In and Out Burger" where they pretty much serve the PERFECT burger. Like most people who travel to CA (or Vegas and now Oregon and Texas), I make it a point to get my "In and Out" fix when I am in town. Hamburger Day is on Sunday, May 28th and so when I'm at "In and Out", I plan to buy some t-shirts for my kids as thoughtful pinches. I have a sense of pride - passing the torch on to both of my kids - who now crave "In and Out" whenever we’re in CA. The magic formula that has made "In and Out" stay current and crowded is remarkable. Even in an age where hamburger joints are adding so many things like peanut butter, fried eggs or smoked salmon aioli sauce on their burgers just to stand out, "In and Out" burgers have always remained true to its roots - classic and fresh. When I was at the University of San Diego, some Sigma Pi’s would hire a limo to drive them to the nearest "In and Out" which was, at the time, in San Juan Capistrano. That’s not a quick trip but it was like a necessity for these guys and money was no object. When I heard about these burger trips, I would feel once again, a little jealous.
Five Guys had the best burgers in town, according to a recording of my son in his Brooklyn, NY accent. Back when he was in Pre-K, my son told his buddy’s mom who was getting them lunch one day all about his favorite burger spots. The back story is that my son refused to eat a hamburger until he turned 4 yrs old. Then the pendulum swung to the opposite side and hamburgers are practically the only food he will eat since then. I guess if you eat enough burgers, your sense of who has the best ones is pretty solid. Which explains why my son's buddy’s mom recorded him declaring that Five Guys burgers are the best. Well, I got pretty comfortable knowing that hamburgers would be his choice whenever and wherever we went out to dinner. However, in recent years, some kids' menus only offer sliders instead of hamburgers and I never thought twice about it so I would order the sliders for my son. I noticed he wasn’t devouring them like he would a regular kid's burger. He would say he didn’t like them. Of course my practical parenting rationale would say, “They are burgers but mini. How could you not like them?” Finally, he figured out how to communicate his sliders versus hamburgers theory - there’s too much bread. And he is right. If you get a burger you have the top bun and the bottom bun. For two to three sliders it adds up to a lot more bread. Just eating the slider burger without the bun, to him, is not at all like having a burger and I totally respect his stance.
Hamburgers are awesome. This Sunday, host a backyard BBQ and serve some burgers or go somewhere cool to get a crazy burger that you would normally never get or bring someone a burger or a gift card from their favorite spot. FYI, "In and Out Burger" has items available online so you can send someone a pinch anywhere in the US. As for more information on hamburgers, here’s a link with three different accounts on how the hamburger started in the US. Each story is different yet the end result is that these pieces of history support how the hamburger eventually became America’s iconic food. Another resource for Hamburger Day is nationaldaycalendar.com. It sites that the world’s largest burger was made in Carlton, MN on September 2, 2012 by Black Bear Resort & Casino weighing in at 2,014 lbs. I could just imagine Wimpy’s face beaming with anticipation if he ever encountered a two thousand pound hamburger. Oh what an ultimate pay off that would be!