Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Brontosaurus burger, anyone?

Between my friend Steve's blog and my own, the topic of fast food restaurants seems to have been popping up frequently, which reminded me of my own stint in the burger flippin' business. Yes, like so many Long Island teens in my decade, I paid my "It's time you got a job" dues in the ever-so-pleasant service industry of fast food. My chosen poison was the home of the Belly-Bomber itself... White Castle. For those that don't know WC, Let me sum them up this way: a square burger less than half the size of a standard burger with five holes drilled into it, steamed on a bed of onions underneath their dinner-roll sized bun, usually with such a disproportionate onion-to-water ratio that it almost always turns out to be a soggy slopfest.

And it's very probably the world's most perfect fast food.

Being so small, they're incredibly cheap; a poor slob on his way home from a night of bar hopping can stop in and order 2 or 4 burgers just for himself, depending on how much change was left in his pocket. If he was with 3 friends, they could easily order 30 burgers or more and plow through them in a drunken rage.
They're also incredibly quick to make. You can order a value meal of 4 and, assuming a grill has already been made, be sitting down eating them quicker than you can say "would you like fries with that?" (Sorry Steve!)
They're also incredibly bad for you. There's nothing at all redeeming in them, they don't even make an attempt to healthy them up by adding a slice of tomato or lettuce, just the above ingredients, topped with a pickle slice, some salt & pepper, ketchup and, for the ultimate slider, a slice of cheese.
Because of their uniqueness, White Castle is the fast-food equivalent of George W.: You either love em or you hate em, there is no in-between. And just like with our selected official, those who say "nay!" often pick on everything done wrong, and sometimes start rumors to defame the idol of others.
Of course, in Bush's case, it's all justifiable.
So where am I going with this? Like I said, all this talk about fast food got me reminiscing about those days, and I was reminded of a conversation I had with my friend Rich long after I had dropped my last basket of fries. You see, one of the 'rumors' going around about White Castle hamburgers was that they were made from kangaroo meat. Ludicrous, to be sure, but I was constantly being asked, "Hey man, is it true they're made from kangaroo meat??" I assume this was to infer that they were so cheap they couldn't afford real beef burgers. At the time my answer was real simple. "Well" I said, "it says 100% Beef burgers on the side of the box of frozen patties, so I'm guessing it's real beef!" It wasn't until the conversation with Rich years later when it dawned on me how ridiculous that rumor was. Kangaroo meat?? Of all the things they could have picked to replace beef with, why kangaroo meat? I don't think kangaroos are that much more plentiful than cows that it would be such a drastic increase in their profit margin. In fact, I would think it'd be a lot more expensive to ship in kangaroos from the outback and butcher them up in top secret kangaroo-processing facilities, threatening their employees with bodily harm if they ever spilled the beans and paying off the officials to look the other way. A hell of a lot more expensive. You might as well just develop your own dinosaur-cloning facility, genetically grow a bunch of fattened-up T-Rex's and grind them up for some delectable dinoburgers... I can see the rumors now... "Hey, you know why White Castle's are so cheap and crappy? They're made from dinosaurs, man! No, really!" Sure, why not, that'd be REAL cheap!
"Here's your order of Velaciraptor Fingers, don't forget your Dinosauce!"

(Slightly off topic side note: When confirming the spelling of Brontosaurus using, I noticed how completely useless it was as an actual dictionary. The definition of Brontosaurus, according to the site, is "An apatosaur."
Thanks for clearing that up, fellas.)


Steve said...

[[[[[[There's nothing at all redeeming in them, they don't even make an attempt to healthy them up by adding a slice of tomato or lettuce, just the above ingredients, topped with a pickle slice, some salt & pepper, ketchup and, for the ultimate slider, a slice of cheese. ]]]]]

I actually love a great burger with ALL the trimmings, especially tomatoes. The more toppings, the better. Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo, name it, the more the better. But, ironically, White Castles are also awesome. Maybe because they taste nothing like a burger so I can appreciate them for what they are. They basically are melt-in-your-mouth, mushy nuggets. Like McDonald's burgers, you hardly need to chew them.

The pickle is key, though, to the White Castle experience. Pickles, minced onions, and ketchup...the similarities to the McDonald's slider are all there.

[[[[[ Because of their uniqueness, White Castle is the fast-food equivalent of George W.: You either love em or you hate em, there is no in-between. ]]]]]]

But, of course, it is quite possible to dig White Castles, but not the president.

Indeed, a lot of people hate the Castle, especially women. White Castle seems to be predominantly a guy thing.

It becomes difficult to explain White Castle to the uninitiated. I try to explain to people that it's not It's not about nourishment or getting a good meal. It's more of an event, an experience. A guilty pleasure, perhaps. Something to say you did, even though common sense tells you it's a bad idea. White Castle is just so unapologetic and doesn't even try to disguise the fact that it is trash sustenance.

In short, if you approach your appreciation for White Castle from the wrong angle, you will miss the point and not really enjoy it. Also, if you are not open minded or particularly pretentious about your cuisine, you will definitely not "get" it.

rassmguy said...

White Castle is an abomination. It quite possibly might be proof that there is, in fact, an Anti-Christ. And he has a bad digestive system, which is why he's so evil and nasty and tends to poke people in the ass with a pitchfork.

I've only eaten at White Castle once in my life. And it was because a friend pushed me to do so.

Somehow, I'm still friends with him and am writing in his blog right now.

Maybe it's a regional thing, as I grew up in an area where we had no ugly cement buildings slightly reminiscent of prisons that served grade-Q beef on dilapitated buns with greasy, gooey, undecipherable STUFF on top. Therefore, I never developed a taste for it.

And for that, I will always be thankful.

For years, I'd been hearing how great White Castle burgers were. It seems you can't say "White Castle" without someone saying, "Mmmm, I love White Castle!" (In fact, I proved this just five minutes ago when Toni, sitting next to me, said that very sentence as I started to respond to this blog. I rest my case.)

Thus, when push came to shove, I was eventually willing to try this culinary equivalent of a tsunami, even though just looking at it made me want to re-enact the tower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's film "Vertigo."

What a mistake THAT was.

Four burgers for a penny, right? Something like that. I dunno. 83 burgers for a buck. Whatever. The point is that people come in and buy more burgers than they have brain cells, excited that three of them at a time can fit in their mouths.


So I thought, "Okay, I'll try it," and I bought a four-pack. (I don't believe you can get fewer than four, so I had no choice, if memory serves...which it admittedly might not, given how strongly I've pushed to forget the entire incident ever since.) I took the first bite...and thought for a moment that I'd walked into a pond face-first and started chewing the mush on the bottom that goes squishy-squashy between your toes as soon as you walk outside the part that has been dredged for people to swim safely. You know, the plant material and dead fish stuff lining the whole bottom. That's what it felt like.

"Keep going. It's an acquired taste," I was told.


I kept going.

Munch. Squish-squash. Gggggguuuulllllppppp....gurgle gurgle gurgle...

Very tasty.

One down, three to go.

So I tried a second one. Acquired taste and all that. Two down, two to go.

Right down the garbage can's hole, that is.

The second was no better than the first, and not being an idiot, I had no reaosn to believe the third would be better than the second.

Let that be a lesson to you: never give in to peer pressure. Just say no.


So I think that about wraps it up...

In conclusion...where's that hot girl with the red hair?