Monday, May 6, 2013

The hamburger of our discontent


This is of course a tricky subject. It involves hamburgers. Vegetarians should not proceed any further. Hamburgers are controversial and strange phenomenon. Many crave for them, but few dare to admit. It's a kind of food porn. They do not fit in the Dutch tradition, but have found their place in the land behind the dikes. They arrived here on the wings of Americana that crossed the Atlantic in the 1950s and 1960s. Coca Cola, Elvis Presley, cars with wraparound windshields. Hamburgers could not stay behind.

We never had and still do not have typical Dutch hamburger restaurants. Our junk food traditionally centers around french fries, and a sheer endless selection of fried gourmet snacks like frikadel, bamibal and berehap. I will not even try to translate this, and neither should you. It was McDonald's that opened the first hamburger restaurant here in 1971. Wimpy and Burger King followed on McD's success, but Wimpy's marginal existence led to its premature demise in the 1990s, and the King is still barely hanging on. We did have a McDonald’s here in my hometown Katwijk, and I'm pretty sure it must have been the only franchise in the entire world that had to close its doors after just two years because there were simply not enough customers. Not even during the summer tourist season. I'm not even sure if I ever went inside.

I have never consumed many hamburgers in my life. If it would total 50, it would be much. Because there is always another option. A McFish, a McChicken, McShrimp, McVeggie, McHerring, McLobster, McLettuce or McWhateverlookshealthier. So, I walked in for a hamburger, and walked out with something different. Although I have to confess that a few months ago I made a quick dash to a McD. I had some time to spare for an appointment, and I already felt that my stomach was preparing to emit awkward noises during the interview. I decided to fill the emptiness inside with a Euroknaller, McD's smallest and cheapest burger, costing just one euro. And it was one euro too much. Because, whatever I tasted, it was not a burger. Damp cardboard maybe, but at least it served its purpose.

And yet, the burger somehow worked its way into my life, albeit on a modest scale. It has become part of a monthly male bonding ritual, when Nephew and I share our lives and times of the past few weeks at a sauna meet. When Nephew discovered the Classic Burger on the menu, there was no way I could stay behind. For sure, a baguette Provençale and a salad Niçoise would be healthier and less calorie rich options, but we are talking men here. And mind you, this is not your typical McD burger either. No kiddie food, but a massive juicy burger of tender meat, with a large plate of fries.

But one day, things did go wrong big time. We all know scenes from comedy shows when a large dish is presented on a dinner table, and when the lid is lifted all people see is just a small dry turkey or a collapsed cake. That's how the situation was at our poolside table. The burgers arrived and 'bewilderment' is the only way to describe how we both were staring at a small dark greasy item between a pathetic small roll on our plates. After some awkward and painful moments, the Nephew broke the silence. "This is not what a expect when I order a 'Classic Burger'," he spoke in utter disbelieve. Action was required. I complained. By email, because we live in a digital society. The excuse did not wait long. To ease our disappointment, the hotel that owns the spa, invited us as their guests, free sauna, the real classic burgers, drinks and parking. Sophisticated bathrobes and towels were waiting for us, together with luxury, but silly looking slippers. And everybody knew our names. A burger gone wrong made us kings for a day.

Nederlandse versie hier

5 comments:

  1. Great article, my friend - I enjoyed your humor here. If you want the full McD's experience, you have to get a Big Mac or something. The small plain burger is just that. I was waiting to hear that, like my favorite food, wraps, your burger expelled itself from it's bread container and landed in one's lap; Not a good thing to happen if you are in a clothing optional environment. But when you come here someday, I will take you to the XXX Root Beer restaurant with what I consider the best burgers around. I can only eat there once a year as it's too filling, but oh is it good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, there was only that slightly embarrassing moment when Nephew's towel fell down just as he walked by the pool where the little kiddies were playing. It might that the awful hamburger was a retribution for that.

      Delete
    2. I'm guessing the kids didn't notice, although if they did you know they can't keep their mouth shut about it :D

      Delete
  2. Did this dual experience involve two different visits, or did your email while there bring on the white glove experience the next day?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two visits - it took about a week before the manager of the front desk of the hotel replied and invited us back. He wrote to me that he inquired both at the kitchen and with the staff at the pool what happened and concluded that they had not handled this in a professional way.

      Delete