Claes Oldenburg, Hamburger, 1962, lithographic crayon on paper, 14" x 17", Museum of Modern Art.
My friend, Jane Sigal, wrote a delightful piece in Wednesday's Times
about how hamburgers are becoming the gourmet dish of choice among chefs in France—and that the French want to eat them with a knife and fork. The funny thing is, I told her this morning, that I've had more hamburgers (three) in the past month than in the last 20 years. What precipitated this unprecedented consumption was being at the Iron Horse Music Hall
in Northampton (not exactly known for its feats of gastronomy—having dinner there is how you get a table for the concert) when my friend, Scott, a chef among other things, ordered a burger and I realized it was only smart to get the plate most likely to be prepared best. It was surprisingly delicious. Of course (eew! white bread!) I didn't eat the bun. Another tasty burger followed at a barbecue, and then last week, when starving at Mass MoCA
before the Beth Orton
concert, I ate one—gasp!—bun and all, and it was superb.
Before I'm lambasted by vegetarians and others pointing out how our penchant for beef is destroying the planet, I know, I know. Philosophically, I'm there. Because of that I've given vegetarianism my best try a number of times, with all the attendant righteousness and attention to protein grams. And I'll admit that after the first three days of my foray into macrobiotics, strangers were assuming my 13-years-younger boy friend and I were the same age. However I now believe that while some people are meant to be vegetarians, others aren't—there are even theories that base this on blood type
—and I'm just not. A few days without animal protein and I wilt.
So no longer holier-than-thou, I'm eating hamburgers. And when Jane admitted today that she'd never cooked one, I proffered my method (the chutzpah!), learned from my mother:
Shape ground chuck (grass-fed, of course) into ½ pound patties, not too thick because they puff up, but not so thin that they'll overcook. Put a layer of salt in the bottom of an iron skillet and let it get really hot before adding the patties. Cook on one side until there's a crust, then turn and cook on the other. DO NOT turn them more than once. DO NOT try to flatten them with a spatula or pierce them in any way that would cause the juices to run out. DO serve them with fresh corn-on-the-cob cooked in boiling, unsalted water for THREE MINUTES and NO MORE (my Midwestern orientation kicks in here).
P.S. Son Matt, a culture critic who's always ahead of the curve, wrote this
about where to find the best burgers in LA.