Food For Thought: What a burger should be


Hannah Agpoon

Graphic by Hannah Agpoon.

Gabby Hernandez, Contributing Writer

It is on days where the only other options are heinous arrangements of pizza toppings or disturbingly mushy Plat Du Jour entrees that I grab a cheeseburger from the Honor G Grill (this is usually because D-Hall is choosing to experiment). Those days are the saddest because even when being compared to pizzas smothered in buffalo sauce or dubious “fresh” fish, D-Hall cheeseburgers are underwhelming. I wish I was exaggerating as I say this: most times, D-Hall burgers make me wish burgers didn’t exist at all.

Let me put you in my shoes, although I am sure many of you have experienced something similar, if not worse. I stand at the entrance of the Dining Hall and, in unison with other concerned peers, crank my neck backwards like a hatchling hoping to be fed by its mother. Instead of food, we are hoping for the sight of something appealing on the menu. We are hoping for one dish that D-Hall can do well.

Disappointed at the tiny words on the screen but hopeful that there are some hidden gems within, we expend a meal swipe –– sometimes valued at $12, but other times valued at $18 –– and walk in. The humidity hits me like a truck. The air is thick with moisture and a strange scent that seeps into one’s clothes.

I take a lap. The names of the pizzas being served are unrecognizable, the specialty burger has wasabi smothered on it for some godforsaken reason, chicken that looks anything-but-fresh is being dried out under the Plat lamps, and the stir fry station is closed. “Cool, cool, maybe the standard issue cheeseburgers will be safe and chewable today,” I think to myself.

A sharp pain hits my chest when I see those misaligned buns. Nevertheless, I grab one. I tear off the top bun and apply ketchup to it. As I bite into the protein disc, the burnt edges send sonar shock waves throughout my skull as if I was chewing on lit Black Cat firecrackers. I put the cheeseburger down, lean back in my chair and take my consciousness on a trip down memory lane.

Hidden in the mix of S&B staff writers is a cheeseburger-chef-extraordinaire. This staff writer occasionally blesses me with an undeniably tender, juicy and flavorful cheeseburger. The specific burger that came to mind had soft buns that made the burger feel lighter than air in my hand. Between the buns were two patties; the meat was slightly pink in the middle and secreted burger grease that I found myself repeatedly dipping the cheeseburger back into. The patties were seasoned well with pepper and paprika and complemented nicely by two slices of American cheese.

My nose captured the glorious and unbeatable hints of flavor out of the air and advised me to squeeze Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce onto the plate. I obeyed. Before I took my first bite, I dipped the burger into the sauce, mixing the grease which had fallen onto the plate into the sauce. I bit. I chewed. I was overcome with flavors, textures and emotions that immediately took control of my senses.

As I recalled dipping the staff writer’s burger into Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce, I was teleported into a memory within a memory. Californians have their In-N-Out. Texans have their Whataburger –– which trumps In-N-Out in quality in many ways, but that is a debate for another time and place. On the Whataburger menu is the divinely blessed Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich. Between two toasted Texas toast slices and two slices of Monterey jack cheese lay three chicken strips smothered in honey barbeque sauce. I never fail to salivate at just the thought of that most beloved creation. 

I must return to the cheeseburger of my daydreams before longing for Whataburger’s divinely blessed Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich envelops me completely. Just a drop of Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce was sweet, baby. The sauce added another layer to this double-decker cheeseburger that made the American cheese stand out all the more. Just like Remy in “Ratatouille,” I saw the colors of barbeque and cheese dance behind my eyelids.

I wish I could say that it was me eating that cheeseburger. The truth was far darker. Overcome with the savory flavor, my body went on autopilot. I dipped, chewed, and swallowed in rapid succession and before I knew what happened, the burger was gone and, disgruntled, I was back in the Dining Hall with this sad excuse of a cheeseburger before me. I ate it out of spite.