In Search of Cheeseburger Excellence

I don’t know about you but I appreciate an occasional break from the panicky mood of the last few weeks. It is serious. The fear is understandable. Still, I grow weary hearing, reading, and thinking about it 24/7. Distinguishing between useful fact and hogwash is time consuming. Don’t get me wrong. Judi and I are self-isolating at home. We only make essential trips. And I wash my hands frequently as though I spend the days playing in the mud. But I’m in the mood for a diversion and for that reason take a different approach to this blog.

Today I’ll introduce you to one of my great loves. Only recently did I recognize the truth of this deep affection. I love cheeseburgers. Well, sort of. Love is an overused term. We love our mates and our families. We love the outdoors. We love a good movie or book. So maybe it’s best not to apply that word to food. With that in mind, I’ll revise my statement and say, “I tremendously enjoy a good cheeseburger.”

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have strong carnivore tendencies. My mother says I came out of the womb preferring meat over other foods. Not much as has changed over the years. I once committed to a 30-day trial of vegetarianism. The only change I observed was that I was grumpy all the time—not a pretty picture! I have vegetarian friends whom I respect and admire. I make a great lunch partner with them because I never ask to share and they never have to worry about me stealing their lunch.

Recently while scanning a restaurant menu it dawned on me that I really do like a good cheeseburger. It felt almost like a moment of revelation. With that awakening I decided to try cheeseburgers wherever they were recommended as a specialty of the house or had a local flair. Anyone can throw a slice of cheese and drizzle catsup on a patty and stale bun and call it a burger; I seek something unique instead–burger excellence, if you will.

The day I joked about starting a cheeseburger blog, various friends said they’d enjoy reading what I discovered. I suspect a blog restricted to only cheeseburgers would make for a short shelf life—which itself might be a Godsend to everyone who reads my stuff—so I’ve decided to fold it into my Light Musings site occasionally and thereby expand the variety of what appears here. Whether or not it continues really depends on whether others find it interesting or useful—and how long I find blog-worthy cheeseburgers (and maybe how long we have travel restrictions)!

Today I pay tribute to a local watering hole in Richmond, Indiana called Legends Southside Bar and Grill.  Opened in 1858, it touts itself as the second oldest continuously running bar in the state of Indiana and the oldest in Wayne County. It sports a warm, friendly atmosphere. Many of the patrons that day were obviously well-acquainted. Though I’ve lived in the area for years, I had never visited this restaurant until recently. I am often surprised by little gems that exist in our neighborhoods that we never see or fail to notice. There really is something to be said for taking time to notice and engage with your immediate surroundings. This place won my respect for what it calls the Brie Burger. If you thought brie was a cheese just for crackers, acidic fruits, and wine parties, think again. Melt a bit on a beef patty and you’ll give your taste buds a reason to dance during the lunch hour.

Here are the burger’s ingredients as described in the menu:

  • Sautéed onions
  • Creamy brie cheese
  • Bacon
  • Blackberry jam

I was destined to love this burger from the outset. Sautéed onions are a favorite condiment of mine. Their caramelized taste is almost always welcome, in my opinion. As for bacon, I’ve yet to find any flavor profile not enhanced by its inclusion: wrap it around a date, a scallop or a filet mignon; lay it beside a scrambled egg; heck I’ve even seen it used as a doughnut topping. So of course it can complement a burger! Like many of us, the company bacon keeps influences the way it contributes to the whole. In some cases it is just salty and chewy, almost like jerky if overcooked. But in slightly less cooked and in combination with others it adds a smoky, rich flavor that dresses up the dish. As for blackberries—what can I say? They’re seedy little rascals but rate as my favorite berry anyway. In jam form, I suppose you don’t get credit for eating fruit at lunch but the slight addition of sweetness to the burger helps each bite explode with flavor.

These ingredients are a good reminder that odd or unusual combinations can produce creative and outstanding results by simply bringing their distinctiveness to the table. My guess is that is true of people as well! I can’t count the number of times when I’ve wrestled to find a solution only to have someone unfamiliar with the problem and hearing of it for the first time say, “What if you tried this?” and it was just the piece of advice needed. Sometimes they have different skill sets. Other times they have another perspective. Sometimes they are just further away from the focus and haven’t had certain predictable responses burned into their answer banks. And on occasion, none of us envisioned anything in particular but unintended consequences created something new and better than anticipated.

We’re living in a moment when we have ample opportunity to let that kind of effort work for our benefit. Earlier this week I read that the police had to be called in to settle a dispute over toilet paper, but I also saw a photo and headline of a Muslim and a Jew who pray together while working together in their respective roles against the pandemic. Ordinarily they would separate when that time comes. Some communities are coming together in new configurations to respond to challenges they see. We even saw some bi-partisan cooperation in Congress this week. What if these kinds of responses lead us new perspectives, patterns, and practices? There are some big world problems that really require innovative responses to be addressed effectively.

Excuse my digression! Back to cheeseburgers! The Brie Burger is a simple combination that is easy to replicate at home, so you can do this yourself (unless there has been a run on ground beef or brie at your local grocery!). If you live in the Richmond area, support the local economy and try one there if you’re out on an essential trip – though for now you’ll have to settle for curbside pick-up.

The Brie Burger—I enjoyed it tremendously. It may well be the stuff Legends are made of!

P.S. If you have your own favorite burger, share it with me. I might like to try it.

Further Reading

Purchase book.

“This is destined to become a new Quaker classic with its depths of insight on call and discernment.” — Carole Dale Spencer

“… the book is a rare and much needed Quaker-specific how-to manual for embracing our individual calls to ministry …” — Windy Cooler

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