November 27th, 2008

Thanks for the burger, but no thanks

A few days ago I noticed a sign outside the local Burger King that said “Open on Thanksgiving.” It made me wonder just what a Thanksgiving Day gathering there might be like. But then I realized that I actually had some personal experience in this regard, many moons ago.

That was when I was in college, before fast food had taken over the world. My family lived about a thousand miles away. My freshman year I’d gone home for Thanksgiving, but it seemed I’d hardly said hello to them before I had to say turn around and say goodbye again.

So my sophomore year I decided to make life easy and stay at school for the holiday (as I recall, one of the things that sweetened the deal was that I had some sort of date planned for Saturday night. But I digress.) I was going home for Christmas in a few weeks anyway, so I figured that would be soon enough to see my parents. After all, I was hardly a baby anymore; I’d reached the outrageously autonomous and sophisticated age of eighteen.

The dorm remained open, and there were three other girls staying there for the duration, all of them from foreign countries. But on Thanksgiving Day I discovered to my surprise that the dorm kitchen was closed, and all the other girls had somewhere else to go for the big feast.

I did not. I sat in my room pondering the dilemma. I had no car. There were very few restaurants in town, and the only nearby one that was open was a greasy spoon across the street that served sandwiches and fries and burgers. To top it all off it was raining in torrents.

I waited till the evening when hunger got the better of me, and then I scooted across the street in shame to the restaurant that was empty of any other customers, ordered a double cheeseburger to go with extra ketchup and a large fries (it was, after all, Thanksgiving, time for a feast), brought it all back to my room, and ate it slowly at my desk. “Slowly” in this case might have been all of fifteen minutes.

I never again made the error of being alone on Thanksgiving. Or having a burger. Despite all sorts of menu and venue variations, the classic turkey-with-stuffing theme has always been scrupulously followed.

This year I want to express the hope that all of you had a wonderful meal with wonderful company—whatever the menu, wherever you may be.


22 Responses to “Thanks for the burger, but no thanks”

  1. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Also sophomore year, and 650 miles away, I had made the additional mistake of not getting cash at the bank the day before. (This was in an era before ATM’s children, in the barbarous years when we had to plan ahead for such things.) I therefore had a can of Campbell’s tomato soup with a slice of American cheese melted in it and half a bottle of Boone’s Farm apple wine. It sounds pathetic, but I was so fond of feeling sorry for myself at that age that it actually was a great victory.

  2. strcpy Says:

    I do not think I have missed any thanksgivings, I like to eat too much. However, there have been many were we ate out at restaurants – the last one my grandmother was alive we did so (she had lung cancer and it would have killed her to have us cook, but for whatever reason going to Cracker Barrel was A-Ok). But then, that’s quite a bit different than Burger King too.

    This year I smoked a turkey for the first time for ours. I normally deep fry one but, well, that has gotten old and due to the popularity the price of the cooking oil has tripled since I first started. I do not think I will be doing that again unless the cost goes down, if it do it will be VERY rarely.

    However, Lowes has this thing on sale for a bit:

    I’m seriously thinking about getting one of these. From a perusal of the web the people that own/use one all like it. Supposedly it takes somewhere between the time of the real deep fryer and the oven and people who do regularly deep fry turkey say they can not tell a difference (though I do find a few people who have never had or tried the thing say that is impossible).

    If it works as well as people say, and since it can do chickens and, well, pretty much any hunk of meat up to around 16 lbs I think this would be a nice addition.

    Ah well, at the lest I cook often enough for large groups that a second “oven” would be useful even if it doesn’t produce as good as deep fried.

  3. Gray Says:

    Wha? “Infrared”? That just means “heat”. If it’s a dry heat, which it is, it’s an “Oven”.

    That stupid thing is an electric “backyard oven”. Who needs that? Just use the “Infrared Oven” in the kitchen.

  4. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    I never again made the error of being alone on Thanksgiving.

    Oh, I dunno. I had a fabulous day, savoring my solitude. Not to mention the three pound ham my mom sent me. And the pumkin pie, partially my own creation. I’ll credit Libby with the pumkin filling, but the crust was all my doing.

    Cracker Barrel is, ummm, several steps up from BK. Let’s see, they have for Thanksgiving:

    Fresh turkey breast, oven roasted in our kitchen and served with made from scratch cornbread dressing and turkey gravy, a sampling of baked sugar-cured ham, sweet potato casserole with caramel pecan topping, your choice of one additional vegetable, cranberry-orange relish, fresh biscuits or corn muffins served with real butter, your choice of Coca-Cola beverage, pumpkin pie with pecan steusel topping

    Adult: $8.99

  5. Beverly Says:

    I felt sorry for the poor soul who had to cook in the diner that day, Neo.

    Here’s to friends and family and feasting together. And happy Thanksgiving to all.

  6. strcpy Says:

    “Wha? “Infrared”? That just means “heat”. If it’s a dry heat, which it is, it’s an “Oven”.”

    Ovens cook by several different means – infrared being just one of them. Convection and several other types of radiant heat are heavily used.

    For instance – you can cook without the radiant heat in your oven by placing it inside a terra cotta (or other heavy insulating ceramic) – this produces an entirely different cooking experience and texture in the final product. For many types of proteins this is actually a better tasting method of cooking (doesn’t dry out near as fast).

    Further, commercial kitchens have had for some time infrared ovens that use a specialized emitter for that wavelength of energy (they do not use radiant heat to produce the energy). These are used to “oil-lessly fry” many meats. The energy released heats the oil surrounding the meat and the fat as is drips out thereby frying the food instead of baking it. In this case there is no difference between that thin layer of fat and having 1/4″, 1″, or even 3′ of hot oil surrounding the food – the fat is where the actual heat is stored/transferred into the animal. Hence you have generally end up with cooking times much less than conventional ovens. These are generally VERY expensive and VERY expensive on energy consumption.

    As to if this one achieves the same type of radiation through a propane heat source – I do not know. They claim it does. I do know that infrared is part of the energy that a standard oven uses to heat food so I know it is produced. I do know that they can effectively separate it and, given a strong enough heat source, have a high enough intensity. I do know that if they can achieve all of that then it will cook as they claim. I just do not know if it is possible with propane in a device that sits on my porch.

    If they can not then yes, it is just an oven – however I find it interesting that there is no need to use the lid to cook the food which strongly suggest they are doing what they claim. Your conventional oven can not cook with its door open, however those commercial ones I mentioned can (though that is highly inadvisable – they are a bit more powerful than anything I’m going to have sitting on my deck).

    However, I thank you for telling me how something you know very little about and have never used will work. I will be sure to take it into account when deciding if I am to purchase this or not.

  7. FredHjr Says:

    I spent a couple of Thanksgivings in the Army away from home, but they had GREAT food at the mess hall for those of us who could not go home. Once, when I was in college during my freshman year out in Gunnison, CO, a bunch of us who were from back East and could not go home for the holidays got together and yours truly did up a huge turkey at my apartment for the seven of us. We had a great meal and a good time.

    When I was a Jesuit seminarian I was away from home for all three Thanksgivings I was in the seminary, and we cooked up some fine turkey dinners. During the day we spent our time at local homeless shelters cooking and serving the homeless a holiday meal. It actually was a good time, believe it or not.

  8. strcpy Says:

    “Cracker Barrel is, ummm, several steps up from BK.”

    Very much agree – I will even choose to eat at Cracker Barrel over many more expensive restaurants. I wish I could eat it more than a time or two a year but I adore their Country Ham – they have a three side meal that isn’t on their menu that has an absolutely *huge* slice of the stuff. Otherwise I normally get their “sampler” (meatloaf, chicken/dumplings, country ham) so I still get a small piece. I used to eat their country fried shrimp – IMO it is some of the best fried shrimp you can get in a restaurant. I also used to regularly eat their blackened catfish – I still crave it from time to time. However I developed an allergy to seafood a few years back and can no longer eat either one.

    However, still not as good as when my grandparents generation was alive and cooked Thanksgiving. Outside of a dish or two my parents generation can’t cook very good (one of my aunts in an exception). Then in my generation, well, both my parents and my cousins on *both* sides of the family always ask me (and my mothers sister when she is going to be there) to cook the family meals. Though, even if I do say so myself, I’m a pretty decent cook and there are even a few things I do that surpass my grandmothers generation.

    Can’t say the same for Burger King, though I do enjoy them in my normal fast food lunch routine.

  9. Gray Says:

    However, I thank you for telling me how something you know very little about and have never used will work.

    I work with “Long wave infrared emitters” (heat sources for IR detectors) daily. I’ve fried turkeys, I’ve roasted turkeys and I’ve accidentally roasted things too close to long wave infrared emitters.

    As to if this one achieves the same type of radiation through a propane heat source – I do not know.

    That’s the part I don’t believe–thus making the ‘infrared’ claim gratuitous; not exactly false ‘cuz it does produce infrared wavelengths, but of all different wavelengths within IR spectrum making the radiant heat the primary cooking mechanism.

    The ‘char-broil’ in the name suggests radiant cooking; the ‘oiless frying’ suggests IR exitation, so it really doesn’t make any sense….

    I thought turkey had protein precursors of serotonin and produced a mood-lift. apparently not….

  10. Kirk Petersen Says:

    Goodness, a flame war in a Thanksgiving thread. It really is like a family here.

  11. Rene Says:

  12. waltj Says:

    As a former soldier, long-time expat, and lifelong bachelor, I’ve had plenty of Thanksgiving dinners alone in restaurants, sometimes surrounded by people who have no clue about Thanksgiving. Comes with the turf, I guess. The most downmarket one I can remember was when I was stationed at Ft. Bragg circa 1980, and the only place open was Bob’s Big Boy (Mac’s and BK might have been, but even I wasn’t desperate enough to check). The food wasn’t bad, but the glow-in-the-dark turkey gravy was out of this world. As in from another planet. I think they later used it for alien blood in those Predator movies. The only waitress working in the place said she needed the money, and her soldier husband had duty on post anyhow, so she might as well work. For some reason, this struck me as very sad, and I did about the only thing I could do for her and left a nice tip.

  13. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Decades ago, I closed up the fraternity house late Wednesday and went to the local down-scale bar for a burger before heading home. It was about eight at night. The folks who chose to go to that bar were the saddest, loneliest bunch I have ever seen.
    Ordinarily, the place was jumping with students and blue-collar folks and full of noise and life.
    What a difference.
    As candidates at Ft. Benning, we got four days off, except for a formation at ten in the morning every day.
    We made our own fun.
    Rather be home.

  14. kaba Says:

    Thanksgiving Day of 1969 was spent on a remote mountaintop in Vietnam. It was the end of the monsoon season and raining heavily. Consequently choppers were only flying for medivac and emergency resupply. So dinner consisted of C-rats heated over a heat tab.

    Such moments have made me appreciate subsequent holidays spent with friends and family all the more.

  15. melanie Says:

    Yesterday’s company was good: my husband.
    The food was less than special: airport food court.

    We travelled over three thousand miles to remember my husband’s grandma, who passed away last weekend.

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    As a young faculty member honking for tenure, single and 3000 miles from home, I spent four of five Thanksgivings alone, in the lab. It wasn’t scarring; in fact, I have almost no recollection of it. Most of the other junior faculty were in the same boat, and considered that this was no time to fritter away four or five days of precious time.

    The fifth Thanksgiving I drove down to Philly to viist my cousin, whose father-in-law buttonholed me about how cushy life was in academia.

  17. Jimmy J. Says:

    As an airline pilot I spent more Thanksgivings and Christamases away from home than at home. Working in a service industry, especially when you are junior, requires that sort of thing. That usually meant dinner in a restaurant of sorts, so getting a traditional meal of turkey and trimmings normally wasn’t a problem.

    However, one time I arrived at the layover hotel in Cleveland about 7PM. I rushed to my room, changed clothes, cleaned up and hurried down to the restaurant, looking forward to treating myself to the usual Thanksgiving meal. As I entered the restauarant the hostess greeted me with the pleasant rejoinder that, “We’re closed! We closed five minutes ago, and you’re out of luck.” I thought, “Happy Thanksgiving to you too,” but did not say it as I vacated the premises.

    I was too tired to wander out looking for a place that might be open. So, dinner that night consisted of a package of Ritz crackers and a coke from the hotel vending machine. A call home to chat with my wife and children lifted my spirits somewhat, but I’ve always remembered that as the low point of all the holidays when I had work.

  18. Tatyana Says:

    I’m sure many people would consider being sick with cold and home alone on Thanksgiving a worst kind of fate.
    I was enjoying it – if only the pain in my forehead and the sneezing would stop…

  19. strcpy Says:

    “The ‘char-broil’ in the name suggests radiant cooking; the ‘oiless frying’ suggests IR exitation, so it really doesn’t make any sense….”

    So, you have now downgraded to the same spot I’m at – you simply do not know. Big difference from the original post – had I been less knowledgeable about the different form of energy used in cooking you would have been significantly overstating your case and knowingly spreading false information. If you remain here that will be filed away under your user name far longer than anything you say about this unit. Especially true since you obviously knew it from the beginning, not that I gave you something new to think about.

    BTW – “char-broil” is the name of the company and they produce many items that neither char nor broil so that shouldn’t be terribly confusing. That is no more “confusing” than Browning Firearms producing several lines of clothing. To note – Char-Broil produces a few of those a fore mentioned commercial cookers so they *do* actually know something about it, they have been making a push to get it into small, cheaper home units – however while $1500 – $2000 is “cheaper” it still isn’t really cheap. This being $150 and that small is a pretty big leap, either that or they selling for a loss hoping you will buy their larger offerings.

  20. an unrepentant kulak Says:

    Funny, I had a similar experience my first year away at college (minus the burger and fries — that would actually have been a step up!) 2000 miles from home, a plane ticket back for the long weekend was a prohibitively expensive luxury given that I’d be going home soon for Christmas, and I had rationalized that I had a paper to write. I figured I’d keep busy, but didn’t realize how lonely I’d feel until I sat there eating out of a can in my dorm room on a quiet, near-empty campus. I called home, put on the cheer, told them all was well, but man was I surprised how down I felt, irrational though I told myself it was to place such importance on one day. No doubt that experience has helped me to appreciate the togetherness of future Thanksgivings all the more. Either the next year or the year after that, I accepted a friend’s invitation to have Thanksgiving with her family in New York, and was grateful for the warm welcome I received from her very kind and friendly family.

    Thank you for the the story, Neo. Yet again, you’ve reassured me that I’m not alone. Hope you and all present had a fine Thanksgiving this year.

  21. Mike Says:

    Working in temporarily in New England a few years back, I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home and family. I couldn’t rationalize spending the money for air fare or driving the 500 miles to Maryland and 500 miles back over a four day weekend since I would soon be home for Christmas anyway.

    So, for the first time ever, I ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant then went back to my hotel room. Good food, horrible experience. I missed my family so much it hurt.

    I quit that job and hope I never spend another holiday away from my family again.

  22. Gray Says:

    Big difference from the original post – had I been less knowledgeable about the different form of energy used in cooking you would have been significantly overstating your case and knowingly spreading false information. If you remain here that will be filed away under your user name far longer than anything you say about this unit.

    Wow…. “Somebody” had a crappy Thanksgiving….

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