It’s my birthday, and to celebrate this I’ve specifically asked for a hamburger.
So we’re in a US-style diner in the middle of town, and I’m ever so pleased that when the menu arrives I see they do indeed offer hamburgers.
My wife, however, goes for the pulled pork.
“I’m going to have the hamburger,” I tell the waitress, snapping it shut. “Well done.”
“Well done,” she says. “Very good, well done.”
This is such a positive exchange.
“And would you like to personalise your hamburger?” she asks.
At first, I’m not sure what she means. Maybe she thinks I want to give it a name.
Or ask that the ingredients be arranged in such a way as to represent my face or a familiar figure from childhood.
But she opens my menu and points at a box. You can do all sorts of things with these burgers.
Add special types of cheese. Request unusual vegetables or sauces.
“Oh,” I say, my eyes flicking nervously to my wife.
She doesn’t like it when people have their food personalised. She thinks if you ask for any changes to your food the chef will spit in it. She is absolutely terrified of chefs.
She thinks all chefs do is stir soup and then spit in it for the tiniest imagined slight.
But it’s my birthday.
“You know what?” I say. “I think I will personalise it.”
“Very good,” says the waitress.
“I’d like it with chipotle sauce…”
I trace my finger through the options.
The waitress starts writing. I have a crazy idea. This is going to blow their minds. I pause, dramatically.
“…and a slice of pineapple.”
I snap the menu shut again. Boom! Pineapple! I went there! Happy birthday!
“Pineapple?” says my wife, as the waitress walks away.
She looks impressed but intimidated, because who am I suddenly?
Who is this brave culinary figure improvising his way through a menu? What she just saw was the work of a new man. What she just saw was burger jazz.
“The chef’s going to spit in it,” she says.
“Why do you think everyone’s spitting all the time?” I say, annoyed. “And he’s not going to spit in it. He’s the one saying, ‘Here – personalise your burger.’”
“It’s a trap,” she says. “He probably thinks he’s mastered burgers and he’s giving you the option to change it because he doesn’t think you’d dare question his art. It’s a respect thing. You’re showing great disrespect by adding a pineapple to your hamburger.”
“First of all, I’m not adding a pineapple. I’m adding a slice of pineapple. And second of all, this isn’t The Godfather. I’m not telling Don Corleone how to make meatballs. We’re in a tourist trap diner having burgers.”
“You had to choose pineapple, didn’t you?” she says, not listening.
“The pineapple is there to provide vitamins and offset the heat caused by both the chipotle sauce and the added jalapenos,” I say, because yes, I had thought this through.
“Plus the juice from the pineapple will soften the meat, which as you’ll remember I asked to be well done.”
“Chefs love it when you ask for things well done,” she says, sarcastically. “They think that’s the best way to have all meat.”
She thinks if you ask for your meat well done the chef spits on it.
“Why do you think chefs are the enemy?” I say. “Why do you think chefs are out to get you?”
“They train for years and then someone walks in and says, ‘I think this would be better if you put a pineapple on it.’”
“I’m not putting a pineapple on it,” I say, sighing. “I’m putting a slice of pineapple on it.”
“With a side order of spittle.”
The food arrives. I take a big bite of my burger.
It is absolutely delicious.
In that second I realise I have a gift. I have designed a perfect hamburger.
Spicy, juicy, hot and sweet, the pineapple perfectly raising the well-done patty’s game, the crunch of the peppers reinforcing the smoky spice of the sauce.
“Taste my burger,” I say, holding it proudly aloft.
“No,” she says. “No way.”
“Taste my burger,” I say. “It’s delicious. The chef must have been delighted! He has found a kindred spirit today! Maybe even learned something! At last the ‘personalise your burger’ scheme has worked. Taste my burger!”
“Never,” she says. “Not ever. Because I know what the chef did to it.”
I retreat. I eat the whole thing myself in near-silence.
A minute later my wife finds a hair in her pulled pork.
And that is why this was the best birthday ever.
A name choice that needs a little rethink
“What shall we call our new high-end male-oriented boutique that caters exclusively for men’s fashions?”
“I don’t know. It needs to be something that screams ‘men’.”
“Exactly! How about the French word for ‘her’?”
A new type of soft drink
I was in a shop a few days ago and found a bottle of Lester’s Fixins Sweet Corn Soda.
I picked it up, took a picture of it, imagined what it might taste like, then put it back down again and sprinted quickly away.
Apart from burgers (main column), mankind is sometimes too innovative.