Monday, November 28, 2016


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All this rich Thanksgiving fare gave us a crave for a plain old hamburger off the grill last night, and so that’s what we had, with a nostalgic delve into a hokey Harryhausen movie “The Magic Sword,” fondly remembered by Chris from his teens.  Nothing like childhood memories all at once to set you up for the holiday season.

There's a wonderful article on Slugburgers by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Mississippi's famous writer of articles-on-all-things-both-arcane-and-interesting. I read it several years ago, and it featured sounds, sights, smells, tastes, reactions and aftereffects of her first and only exposure to Corinth's most famous culinary creation. 

It was a lovely bit of writing, bringing to life every greasy, salty, mustard-clad bite. You could almost hear her arteries begin to harden.

My raisin' was in the Delta, and we had never heard of the "hill" folks' delicacy, though our local Milk Bar---guess we were too rural for a complete "Dairy" title--sold something similar. The little one-room building, whitewashed all around, had so many items and prices printed backward in white shoe polish on the INSIDE of the windows that you could barely see the workers within. You walked up to the little screen-flap window, picked your poison from the long list of cholesterol, paid your money, and promptly had the screen slammed down as the cashier turned to yell your order at the frycook standing two feet away.

The refrigerator door was opened to reveal several tall stacks of half-inch pink checkers, each separated by a small square of tornoff waxed paper. Heaven knows WHAT was massaged into that “ground beef” before the final patties were formed---last week’s unused buns, all crumbled into one last effort of use-it-up economy, or the lingering heels of every employee’s loaf of Wonder at home, brought in to stretch the “bought stuff” into more than it was. It coulda been oatmeal or even grits---we didn’t care.

One of these pink coins was grabbed by the paper and slapped upside down on the grill. The hot, dusty parking-lot air began to fill with the tongue-aching scent of sizzling meat as the cook threw two bun halves into the grease deposited by decades of burgers. And the not-quite-mixed bread-and-meat goo began to cook at different rates, different reactions of sizzle, so that each bite of the burger might offer a different taste and texture.

I remember the soft center section, the part that would’ve been rare had the patty not been so thin and the grill-cook not so watchful---that part was unctuously creamy with moist meat and soggy bread. And it was tempting to eat all way round the circle first, to get the mouthfuls of the crisp edges with their crunchy taste of meaty, grease-crisped croutons, or the almost country-fried-steak effect of all that bread mixed in and sizzled on the flat-top. 


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It never mattered to the cook if you got two tops or two bottoms, bun was bun; you didn't care either---you just wanted that sizzling and frying and mustard-smearing to be done, with a nice slice of onion and a coupla rings of salty dills slapped on. The meat, by this time, had been spatula-smashed with all the weight of Miss Ella's muscular right arm, flowering into a bun-sized, thin circle with crisp, lacy edges. Greasy spatula saluted top of bun, the lot went into a crisp crackle of waxy paper with the fancy pinked edges, and you received your prize, seizing it to your bosom like a holy relic.

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You backed away, averting your eyes from the waiting hordes, lest they lose control and wrest your long-awaited treasure from you. A clink of coins into the machine around the corner, the sissssssss of an ice-filled Dr, Pepper, and you retreated to the grimy picnic tables in the shade of the back lot, sinking onto that splintery bench like returning from battle. Rustle of paper, scent of onion-mustard-meat approaching your lips, then Heaven.

As I said, I've never tasted anything called a Slugburger, but I remember those filler-filled burgers of my youth with great pleasure, and with regret for the young of it, the bright-eyed lusty joy with which we wolfed down whatever was put in front of us, the uncaringness of the days before cholesterol and triglycerides were invented. That Milk Bar owner built house after house, renting them to many families, and she built them one burger at a time.

Slugburgers: No. The most memorable sandwiches of our lives: Oh, yes.


donna baker said...

Love a good burger. It is what made me start eating red meat again after a five year hiatus.

GSL said...

Those burgers look delish. Would love to watch a good Apple Dumpling Gang type movies with your ganjins with burger.

Chronica Domus said...

Well, after reading the words "rich Thanksgiving fare" I thought for sure you'd be whipping up a salad but no, more rich fare awaited in the form of a burger - ha! Sounds like you thoroughly enjoyed it by your account, and why not!

NanaDiana said...

LOVE it! I think each area of the country has a similar place...but you put it all to words and I felt like I was right there- that I wanted one of those ol' greazy (as they say in the south-greazzzy-not greasy) burgers. Oh! My! In WI when they serve you a burger the locals slam a pat of butter right on top of the cooked burger before slapping the bun on. They call them Butter-Burgers and they are so good it is heart-stopping (literally if you eat enough of them).

Hope you have a great week and I will go to bed dreaming of a big old greasy burger and hope I get some fried onions on there to boot. xo Diana

BeachGypsy said...

This is one of my most FAVORITE of all time of your posts! Loved it! You could've been writing about the hamburger stand in the little town where we raised our's pretty identical to the one you wrote about, LOL---maybe a few of these places really do still exist but probably not for long, sadly.
We loved to go there and our kids loved to go there. Sultry summer day or freezing your butt off winter afternoon after school--we'd be there for thick slurpy MILKSHAKES AND MALTS in the dead of winter because they were just SO DANG GOOD! ha ha LOL
And the hamburgers---yep, just like you described. You did a far better job of that than I ever could, yet as I read what you wrote, I had the memory of the real thing, at least the one in our lives, the sounds and the scents you wrote about---spot on for sure! The little window where you would place your order, the splintery seats out back under a few shade trees, the whole place and the whole era is just as you wrote it. Thank You!

CIELO said...

This is making me hungry... ;) will have to make my veggie hamburgers today ;)


Jacqueline said...

Oh my! I have a weakness for a good hamburger and you have me salivating all over the keyboard. What a fun writing style you have! Brought me back to the old burger joints!

handmade by amalia said...

Now I want to eat something. And watch a movie.

Kim S. said...

Loved the sound of your little burger joint! There were two identical little cinderblock cubes on the road at the bottom of the hill from my Granddaddy’s farm – about 50 yards apart. One was green, the other pink. The green one was a beer joint and so ‘low’ that even my granddaddy wouldn’t go in. The pink one was kind of a general store, but it sold burgers and hot dogs cooked in a little electric skillet. How I yearned for one of those burgers! But my Grandma Jean was sure that a place that trashy would give me food poisoning, so all I ever managed to talk her into was a Sundrop and a candy bar!