Why I don’t mind being compared to a piece of meat

The Hamburger: An American Tale - www.alliepottswrites.comI was working in Hong Kong when a client from the United States came to tour factories and visit the corporate office. After a day of meetings, we invited him out to dinner, which he accepted. My colleagues, being the polite hosts they were, asked him if he had a preference. He suggested TGI Fridays, a US-based casual dining restaurant featuring American dishes. I guess after the long flight and the day of tours, he wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous.

I didn’t necessarily blame him. While I do try to eat as the locals do when I travel and pride myself on being willing to try most foods (excepting those starting out as animals I view as pets), I’d been working there long enough for the novelty to have long since worn off. I decided to take advantage of the situation and ordered something I’d been craving.

Hong Kong and China had recently celebrated Handover day, also known as the day in which the British government turned control of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) to China. There had been parades in the streets. Some were pro-China while others called for greater independence and a truer democracy.

While we waited for our dinner orders to arrive, the client asked my colleagues how they viewed themselves. Did they consider themselves as Chinese or Hong Kongers / Hong Kongese? I got the feeling that this question might fall into that area deemed outside of polite conversation – like asking about a person’s salary or political leanings – but I will admit I was intrigued to hear their answers.

Most at the table answered that they viewed themselves as Hong Kongers, but chose not to elaborate. Our orders arrived – mine being a burger with a side of fries. Perhaps the client sensed their discomfort, but he couldn’t let the topic go. As the others focused on their food, he turned to me and asked, “How about you? What does it mean to you to be an American?”

www.alliepottswrites.com

A bag of chicken feet – not what I am used to seeing in a hotel snack tray

I picked up my burger, allowing the juices to run down my fingers as squeezed the buns together – an act that you really don’t appreciate until you’ve been eating with chopsticks for weeks. The smell of its greasy goodness filled my nose as a drop of tomato sauce (it’s sooooo not ketchup elsewhere so let’s not even pretend it is what it’s not) slipped onto my plate below. “This,” was all I could say, enjoying the sensation of my teeth cutting through the soft bread and breaking through the crispness of the lettuce as I bit into its side. It would only have been more delicious had it been a slice of pizza.

I’m not sure my tablemates, even the other American, understood my point.

It was enough to move the conversation along to other, less hazardous topics, and gave me the opportunity to savor my dinner relatively uninterrupted. However, the point I was trying to make was this – America is a big juicy hamburger. It’s huge. It’s two to four times larger than any health professional worth his or her license would recommend you attempt to consume every day in a single sitting. In fact, some might recommend abstaining altogether, but that can be hard to do as a burger’s flavor tends to carry over into other dishes, especially where cooking utensils are shared, reminding you of what you could have ordered.

It’s full of fat and salt and can absolutely break your heart if you let it. And yet, when done properly, it can be the most delicious mix of protein, carbohydrates, and side of salad.

American symbols - www.alliepottswrites.com #fourthofJulySure, you might get a less than ideal burger experience from time to time. Meat cooked too much, or not enough, stale bread, the unexpected pickle, or vegetables left too long under the sun. You might be embarrassed to find an errant piece of green on or tooth later in the day, or frustrated by a lodged string of meat that simply won’t be chewed and go away. You may occasionally be made to feel like a glutton for eating the whole thing, but that’s the risk and price you pay when you stick with it versus picking something else from the available menu.

 And yet, I find myself ordering a burger again and again, especially after a period of travel, because a burger feels, quite simply, like home to me. It’s not just a meal. It’s memories of cookouts in the back yard and at family gatherings. It’s the choice we have to stay where we are or the opportunity to eat on the run. It’s the freedom to experiment with new combinations of flavors or make the best of what we are given. Whether you prefer to make it gourmet or with what you can buy with pocket change or use beef, bison, turkey or veggie, a burger is a variety of taste and experience. But above all, a burger can represent optimistic possibility.

I’ve eaten terrible burgers over the years, but I’ve savored some great ones too. I know a burger’s flavor is never certain, but I’ll keep risking the order anyway. Because I also know a bad burger’s taste lasts only so long and all it takes to make the next the best it can be is a bit of patience, a source of warmth, and a great mix of ingredients.

And that is a dish worth celebrating.Happy #fourthofjuly - www.alliepottswrites.com

 

 

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62 thoughts on “Why I don’t mind being compared to a piece of meat

  1. Great post. I agree that a hamburger is more than a hamburger to those who have grown up in the USA. Overseas people used to tease me that a burger, fries and a coke were the classic US meal–I struggled to defend our cuisine but in the end it’s classic for a reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it! Power to the burger. Spending a semester in Europe, I understand this sentiment. Also, I just wanted PEANUT butter! Enough of this hazelnut business. 🙂 They should call it “As American as a juicy burger” instead of apple pie. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my gosh yes. I found this huge jar of peanut butter in a shop across from my hotel in HK and carried it around in my bag to and from the office like I was Gollum and it was my precious.

      Also, I’ve never understood why apple pie was considered the American thing as there are some darn good apple pies in Germany.

      Like

  3. Metaphor alert!! I have no beef with this post. EXCEPT for the fact that you make “unexpected pickle” sound like a bad thing (gasp!) when, in reality, it’s like unearthing a hidden treasure of flavor. The world needs more unexpected pickles!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! I’ve never officially lived there, but have made a number of trips to Hong Kong and southeastern China, some more extended than others. That particular dinner was around week six of an eight-week visit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I love it when you talk about your travels in your blog. I still fondly remember the toilet seat blog you posted a really long time ago. You are so good at coming up with unique ideas and/or metaphors to talk about.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you again! A friend of mine forwarded me a list of the world’s most spectacular toilets (and where to find them) which has become my new travel bucket (or should I call it bowl?) list.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, I must confess I never equated a burger with my nationality, but you have opened my eyes. Does a veggie burger qualify as a reasonable facsimile? If so, I’m with you (although, like you, my preference is for pizza).
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my whole wheat, soy, wheat bran, blueberry pancakes (made with yogurt in place of milk) – so darned American . . . NOT. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OMG…..you have no idea what you just did to me! I’m at the moment enjoying a glass of Guinness in our local pub as my husband watches a Gaelic match. I don’t watch football…..I read blogs! I’m now STARVING! This pub doesn’t serve food. We planned on having a salad later……nice & healthy! But I just want a big fat juicy burger! With pickles!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. haha, I was in your zone as soon as you answered “This!” I fully get where you are coming from here too. Home can be seen in the strangest of things when you’ve been away from it.

    Great post and something I found slightly quirky funny too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this. It is an excellent metaphor… but now you really made me want a burger!

    Also, it’s not really metaphorical, but this bit made me smile: “Meat cooked too much, or not enough, stale bread, the unexpected pickle” I am really not a fan of pickles in burgers, but I thought I was the only one! My husband looks at me like I am mad if (ehem, when) I remove a pickle.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your comparison. And now I’m craving a burger!
    They are rich in vitamin B’s too! Makes you feel better. I just found an amazing burger joint in Breck. All natural beef, triple fried, fries, and handcrafted shakes. Delish!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve not eaten a burger since being told that hamburgers are not made with ham. If I had to choose a British dish I enjoy eating, it would have to be jam roly-poly and custard. I’m more of a dessert guy.
    I hope those chicken feet snacks were not in a hotel here in the UK. 😀

    Like

    • Movies like that one are always fascinating. I still prefer the taste of a meat based burger to a veggie one, but am looking forward to the day when the powers that be figure out the recipe to the point you can’t tell the difference.

      Like

  10. Reblogged this on bylisatully and commented:
    Today I’m sharing a post from an author and blogger, Allie Potts, who wrote an interesting article about an appreciation for America while overseas while eating a hamburger. Creative, compelling, and delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

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