Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whoreganically Blown

Last night we had burgers. Nothing fancy about them at all, no gadgetary magic or exotic ingredients to make them blogworthy. What did make them very very pleasurable to eat, though, was the 20 minutes or so that I spent really actually making them. From scratch. I took a package of local, grass-fed stew meat, trimmed a few tough spots, and fed it into the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment along with a fistful each of parsley and arugula, a minced clove of garlic, a good-sized piece of smoked ham fat cut into chunks, and salt and pepper. I fed them all through the large die, and then the small, and then shaped them into patties. Cooked them. Served them on whole wheat buns with homegrown tomatoes and homegrown and fermented cucumber pickles. Steamed broccoli and sautéed zucchini, also from the garden, on the side. Seriously: 20 minutes, including cleaning out the meat grinder parts before everything got all hard and icky.

Why write about such a meal? I wasn't going to, believe me. But by complete coincidence, earlier in the day I happened to be in a local chain drugstore (don't ask) when, in the course of my hapless, panicked, Kafkaesque wanderings though the maze of aisles, I stumbled upon the following product on a shelf.

I know, right? It's the appliance you've been waiting for! It's a dedicated, electric, nonstick, one-burger-at-a-time skillet to take the risk and danger out of preparing the precarious, complex high-wire act that is the modern hamburger. No longer do you need your very own team of Nobel laureates to look over your shoulder, clipboards and sensitive instruments clutched nervously in hand, while you perform the delicate surgical task that is cooking disks of ground cow meat in a pan over a heat source! Buy just a few more and you can even cook for your whole family at the same time! Even in multiples, these cost significantly less than the particle accelerator, gas chromatograph, and portable MRI you used to use to determine when the meat was cooked properly. It is thus that Science™, synergizing proactively with those geniuses down the hall in Marketing©, toils tirelessly to make your life a better place for them to be.

Is this where we have arrived as a society? What's next, special non-skid booties so you don't accidentally slip and boil your face while attempting to cook corn on the cob? Microwaveable toast singles with a built-in layer of thermo-release butter pustules? A safety orange kitchen helmet with cup holders, reflectors, and a flashing light on top that beeps when you back up?

Can you imagine the meetings that went into the production of this piece of idiocy?

"Well, our research shows that people are having a hard time cooking hamburgers without poking their eyes out–either accidentally, or in frustration at the difficulty of the process."

"So in one case, it's a poke, but in the other, it's really more of a desperate, agonized clawing?"

"Yup. And so we've created a special tool–like a skillet, but only useful for this one specialized task. It has a grease moat, so we can make health claims, and yet it's so completely covered with Teflon that you you can clean it just by yelling at it. Plus, those people in the burger-challenged demographic who happen to fall outside of the sullen, shut-in loner demographic will need to purchase multiple units in order to cook for the others in their household. Also, we're pretty sure you can use this to make meth in prison."

"I love it! Now go wax my plane."

Look. I'm a lazy guy. The idea of a kitchen tool that can be cleaned just by putting it on the floor and having a pet lick it shiny is certainly appealing. And this was, after all, in a drugstore. (There was no price on the box or the shelf). But in this small town, the drug and hardware stores carry all kinds of housewarey stuff because the big stores are 10 or so miles down the road. And I'll bet those big stores carry this exact same thing, or something even stupider. The fact that such a moronic piece of horseshit got greenlit and manufactured (and, presumably, purchased) speaks volumes about how vast the chasm is between where we are and where we need to be when it comes to the nature and place of food in our lives. This is exactly the sort of thing Nero would have been playing with while Rome burned, if he'd had one.

Also, how dumb is it that they don't have a little skinny one for hot dogs? Maybe even a double-barreled number? That'd be sweet.


They do! I just got this picture from "an alert reader." Two horsemen down, two to go.


Chris Rywalt said...

I laughed out loud more than once. Brilliantly funny. "Boil your face". Love it.

I object to all those extra ingredients in your burgers, though. I've been asking for the KitchenAid grinder attachment for two years because I'm getting a little leery of supermarket ground beef, but I would never add all that extraneous herbage. If the meat is as good as you say it is -- and it sounds good -- it sure as hell doesn't need anything but some salt and pepper.

And, of course, my experimental buns with built-in pickles. Once my patent goes through I'm selling it to McDonald's, save them a step in prep.

Zoomie said...

Hilarious! I chuckled all the way through. And, sadly, I agree - what are we coming to?

Mike Pardus said...

A few years ago, when my daughter wanted to go to McD's for dinner one night, we started "McDonalds at Home". When ever she's in the mood for "fast food" we slow it way down and turn it into a family project.Dough is made for buns (Ruhlman's 5/3 ratio works fine), Meat is ground and seasonned (I use fish sauce and ketchup in my mix),Potatoes are first blanched in 260F oil and then finished in 350F oil at the last second, and we drink home brew root beer.

Not only are we eating real food, we're having fun together, she's learning about cooking and chemistry, seasonality and health. One more plus - my daughter can no longer tolerate real fast food - hates it, makes her feel sick. Good habits, instilled early.

Zoomie said...

Just saw the update. Aw, shit.

cookiecrumb said...

Actually, to be charitable, I can see its uses for the sad old man who lives in senior housing and just wants a burger but they won't let him use the stove. I don't know where he's getting the meat, though, because they won't let him drive.

wd. verif: fieri

Alisa said...

I bet that would make perfectly round burger!

Chris Rywalt said...

For Father's Day my son was very disappointed when he suggested getting me a Slider Station and I reacted with abject, unfeigned horror.

Which is about my reaction when I heard fish sauce and ketchup. Ketchup! Good lord! Mr. Pardus, I thought you said you were eating real food! Fermented fish guts!

These things have their place but a burger isn't it. Adding smoked ham, garlic, tomato vinegar product or anything else to the ground beef is simply wrong.

(Sorry. Alton Brown once said:

If America has an official dish it's the hamburger...Now whether that qualifies as a cuisine or not, that's another question. Anthropologist Sidney Mintz in fact argues that it's not enough for a food to be eaten a lot or even cooked a lot. It must be debated. It must be discussed often by those who produce it. Now by that standard, well, the hamburger may have been cuisine at one point but not now.

It's my objective to return the hamburger to cuisine status by arguing about it whenever possible.)

jill said...

If you're lazy then I really don't want to see someone you think is productive.

peter said...

Chris: I know there are others who feel as you do. But I beg to differ. First, the fat; grass-fed beef is pretty lean, so it needs it. And a bit of cured pork fat adds a wonderful depth to the flavor as well as much-needed lubrication. Arugula and parsley or other herbs are flavors I enjoy with beef. And garlic? You question garlic?

Zoomie: The end of an empire.

Mike: Good for you. And her.

CC: You're nothing if not charitable.

Alisa: A hexagonal one would be cooler.

Chris: I'd strongly encourage you not to question Mike's cooking technique. Adding flavors to meat is a noble endeavor. And I bet you'd eat the living shit out of his burgers.

Jill: I feel lazy. Today is particularly bad.

Chris Rywalt said...

Sorry, thank you for playing. You may have your cooking superiorities in all ways and things, but for burgers, you are incorrect. You may be right about the leanness of the meat, maybe, but if so, I say use a different cut, or a mix of cut. There's fat on that there cow somewhere!

And, yes, I object to garlic. Garlic may make everything better up to and including Lucky Charms, but hamburgers are SACRED GROUND.

Oh dear, I made a pun.

Chris Rywalt said...

And of course I would eat his burgers. I didn't say I wouldn't. But I'll eat anything that doesn't run away. This includes anything I can catch.

peter said...

Your strident fealty to utopian modernism is touching, but if you say you want burgers to be cuisine, then they have to become as open-source as the rest of food.

To wit:

Read it and weep.

Heather said...

I'm with Chris. Again, with the nam pla? Meat has enough umami. Salt and pepper or gtfo.

Fucking hilarious post, though. GAH, FINALLY.

Zoomie said...

Chris has the right idea in this one. Add the embellishments if you must but not in the hamburger itself.

Chris Rywalt said...

Dude lost me at "fractal taste". Don't even try it.

And, wow, but that is one UGLY BURGER.

peter said...

The bison-goose burgers with bacon and scallions mixed in that I made the day after Thanksgiving last year was hands down one of the very best burgers that anybody present had ever eaten, with no exceptions. I will add whatever the hell I damn well please to my burgers, and you are all perfectly welcome to not have any.

cook eat FRET said...

if i may, mr. rywalt... mike pardus is not to be questioned on the way he cooks burgers. nor is anyone for that matter. next you will tell me that the way i might roast a chicken is wrong? or that my marinara sauce just isn't done right? i think not.

who the hell are you to speak in such absolutes?

peter said...

Ruh-ro. You made her mad.

Michael Pardus said...

Thanks for the votes, Claudia and Peter, but I've had the "Who gets to call themselves a real cook and why" debate on Ruhlman's site a while back. Let the tourists think what they want.

It usually boils down to something like "I know how to EAT, so I must be an expert at telling other people how to Cook". Telling some one you're an expert on telling someone something is not the same as excelling at a craft.

Good craftsman know this, poor critics don't.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Cookiecrumb has something of a point. This would be a good way to safely introduce children to cooking real, non-McDs burgers safely and easily. I had a neighbor kid that tried to have a hot dog selling business after learning to use one of those hot dog cookers.

However, beyond that, I don't see a point.

I'm not a burger purist. Season your burgers however you want. A little flavor mixed in with the meat never bothers me.

Brooke said...

Mah, funny Peter. This is how I feel about most superfluous kitchen gadgets, like apple peelers, strawberry hullers, and anything that can be done with a simple knife. Marketing meets consumerism.

And I don't presume to tell you how to make burgers. It sounds edible to me. To each his own, man.