I’m a simple man, one who’s getting simpler with each passing year. I don’t know if that’s a symptom, a curse or a blessing of getting older, but I see and feel it happening with regularity.
Whether it’s getting frustrated that my car does too many things “for me,” or the massive sense of accomplishment and pride I feel after I’ve conquered another garage or basement cleaning (replete with offloading a solid percentage of stuff we no longer use), simplicity really rules the roost for me lately. (As the kids say, “It’s trending.”)
Same goes for food, both in its preparation and presentation. I’m not – nor have I ever been – into food “theatrics.” Just give me the good stuff, prepared well, presented nicely and let me do the rest.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been – and continue to be – impressed by folks who can come up with new and creative ways to prepare food. But for me, I like it when that effort is put into flavor and nuance, not flash and bluster. (If you don’t see my simplicity on full display already, I don’t know what else I can do for you.)
An exception would be in the field of baked goods, where I think artistry plays a major – and necessary -- role. Whether it’s icing, fillings, decorative techniques or interesting ways to twist or shape dough, I make concessions in this arena. (Note that as I get older, I also reserve the right to break my own “life” rules whenever I please; you’re free to do the same.)
That said, I like simple food, prepared simply, and for purposes of this discussion, served simply and without pretense or gratuitous bluster (and if we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t ALL bluster gratuitous on some level?)
Case in point. On Sunday, Joanie and I went on a hike. Nothing too adventurous, but one that was challenging enough that we decided to reward ourselves with appetizers and root beer (our usual post-hike beverage of choice) at a nearby restaurant/bar before heading home to complain that 60 Minutes was once again (heavy sigh) a rerun. (I know what you’re thinking, “How do these two live such a wild, crazy life?” It’s not easy, but we grin and bear it.)
As we sat outside, enjoying the beautiful weather and laughing (on the inside) as young parents chased, struggled and negotiated with their kids as they waited for their own food (it’s what empty-nesters do), a server passed with a large tray. On it I saw two large hamburgers, both with knives stuck through the middle, “Excalibur” style.
Immediately, my simple mind thought, “What’s the deal with the knife through the burger?”
Not seeing any practical reason for such a presentation, I immediately went into, “I’m old and I don’t understand the world these days” mode. And when it kicks in for me, I start to find the stupidity in whatever has my attention at that moment.
“It looks like a threat,” I said to Joanie, who at first didn’t see what I was referring to. Then, when it passed through her field of vision, she laughed and replied, “Like a horse head in your bed.”
“Or a kiss on the cheek by a Mafia boss,” I replied. “Like if you get one of these, you’d better run and hide because something bad – really bad – is about to happen. But enjoy it first because it might be your last meal.”
“Eat it … NOW!” Joanie said in a perfect stage whisper, projecting what might be implied by this brash and silly presentation, or what the knife might be saying if it were a character in the animated movie based on this scene.
Finally, it was my turn to wrap it up. “And take the knife with you … you’re gonna need it.”
The interesting thing about it is that even without the knife or its “meaning” (as contrived by Joanie and me), it looked like a recipe for quick and early death: two burgers, cheese, bacon, even onion rings (and more) all packed “under the hood.” It was the muscle car of hamburgers, with all the power, sound and fury of a classic hot rod, and still, just like a hot rod is just a car, this thing was still just a hamburger, and maybe not even a good one. (We didn’t ask the recipients/victims about their experience.)
I get that with all that was going on with this thing, the knife (along with a fork and maybe a small shovel) was probably necessary because I don’t know how anyone could eat it the way it was presented. But can’t we simply include the knife alongside the burger with its natural partners, the fork and napkin? Do we have to use it to stab the food? Seems like overkill (pun intended).
We continued for another moment before Joanie was distracted by a little girl peppering her dad with questions about everything from his choice of beverage to whether he wanted her to do his hair. “Beer” and “Sure you can do my hair” were his answers. (We weren’t eavesdropping, they were at the next table and loud enough to hear without trying.)
Now, in the pantheon of all that is both important and trivial in this world, and amid all the things we could have been pondering or discussing at the moment, this “Excaliburger” offered a nice diversion for us, an opportunity to laugh and wonder about something meaningless, and yet something that someone, somewhere (maybe an entire group of marketing folks) decided was the best way to present an entrée, one that would make others crave it the moment they saw it pass.
Now that I think about it, maybe the knife was necessary, just to hold the entire operation together. And that simply confirms Joanie’s long-standing argument: that someone should invent edible food tape.
But that’s a trivial discussion for another day; maybe after our next hike.
© 2023 David R. Haznaw