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Burger Time

February 23, 2011

Hamburgers are remarkable things. They are also many things to many people.

Let’s take a moment to stop and consider the many forms a hamburger can take. They can be flat and well-done. They can be thick and cooked to a desired internal temperature. They can be prepared on the griddle, over flame, under flame, or even deep fried. They can be served entirely unadorned resplendent in their beefy goodness. Sometimes the patty can serve merely as a substrate for toppings or a substantive stuffing for a delectable bun. The cuts of beef can range from brisket to sirloin and everything in between. A burger doesn’t even have to be made from beef.

It pays to keep an open mind, because there are fantastic versions of every form. I do recall how incredulous I was the first time I read that Five Guys cooked their burgers to a juicy well-done. Until my first bite of their tasty burgers, I had always considered these two qualifiers on opposite ends of a continuum.

Burgers have been on my mind a lot lately. Recently I had a stunning deep fried burger at the request of my favorite editors at All Over Albany. That really didn’t help my resolution about trying to eat happier meat, but it was well worth it. Luckily I had a different kind of experience with burgers on my recent trip to D.C.

ADS and I took Little Miss Fussy to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. She loved looking at the stuffed bears in the Hall of Mammals. Looking at all of those carnivores made me hungry so we headed down to the cafeteria.

Honestly, I was nonplussed with the idea about eating cafeteria food, especially when there is good food to be had elsewhere. But time was limited, and we were all feeling a bit faint with hunger.

The options didn’t start off looking terribly promising. There was a pizza station with flabby rectangular pieces of bread with melted cheese on top. They probably would have done fine in a pinch, but it wasn’t pizza. I felt similarly about the adjacent Mexican station that was rolling up some form of burrito and also sold “tacos.” A bowl of clam chowder didn’t sound half bad from the soup station.

And then there were the ubiquitous cafeteria burgers and fries.

Flat industrial looking patties that have been processed and cooked to death, pre-made and drying out on the warming trays. These are burgers that I traditionally avoid at all costs. Industrial beef is a wholly unappealing product for a variety of reasons.

Anyhow, when I took a closer look at the menu board it read, “Our Natural Beef Products are sourced from Wolfe’s Neck Farms which are grass fed and are antibiotic & hormone free.”

That changed my mind about lunch in a heartbeat. I would get the burger.

Even though the burger still didn’t look like the greatest burger in the world, it now was infinitely more appealing. What was even more remarkable was that this sandwich only set me back $5.25. Sure, it was a thin patty with only two rings of red onion, three pickle slices, one tomato and one piece of lettuce.

I loved the idea that I could get a burger and not have to sacrifice my aspirations about trying to eat more ethically produced meat.

The funny thing is that the farm isn’t anywhere near Washington D.C. Wolfe’s Neck Farm is all the way up in Maine. Which makes me think that if an over-priced museum cafeteria can make something like this for about $5 it may be even cheaper to execute in Albany.

Just because nobody is doing it yet, doesn’t mean it will never happen. A guy has to have his dreams, right?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt K permalink
    February 23, 2011 9:29 am

    Yes – but how did it taste?

  2. February 23, 2011 1:03 pm

    They have to want to and have an incentive to. Are the concessions run by the museum itself, or contracted out to a profit-seeking national cafeteria vendor? Not that it isn’t possible for contractors to put out quality food and responsible food.

    On an almost wholly unrelated tangent, I have a secret wish that the New York State Museum forget about the Subway, and have a real working automat with fresh food. I mean, they already have the automat doors set up on the cafeteria level. Wouldn’t that be amazing? /nerd

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