Downwind by Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager"Hamburger Please"
You know how some kids will only order a hamburger from the menu no matter how great, broad and specialized the choices are? Yeah, that was me. Seafood, Italian, Mexican…it did not matter: “I would like a hamburger with French Fries, please.” I can remember how frustrated my Grandma and Grandpa were when they took me at age 12 to a fish fry and I insisted on ordering a hamburger instead of fish no matter how much they cajoled me.
A hamburger is still my go to comfort food. However, over the years, I have become a bit uppity in my hamburger preferences… My burger should be “loosely packed and formed” weighing in at 1/2 pound, cooked medium. However, please know that I will still gladly “choke down” a preformed, stamped, over-cooked, mass-produced burger with great gusto!
In the 2006 remake of the Pink Panther movie, Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the “allegedly” inept French detective played by Steve Martin, heads to New York in pursuit of the Pink Panther diamond thief. In an effort to not arouse suspicion with other New Yorkers, he trains with the greatest accent coach in the world to speak with a “flourish American accent”. There is a scene in which the American language trainer tries to teach Clouseau how to say, “I would like to buy you a hamburger”. Out of Clouseau’s mouth come the words Hambagger, Dambager, Hummmbgrr, Ambergar, Dimburger and other variations but not an understandable “hamburger”.
Finally, in New York, Clouseau and his assistant Ponton, stopped at a McDonald’s. Ponton asks Clouseau “Have you ever had a hamburger,” and Clouseau responds, “It’s a disgusting American food”. He then takes his first hamburger bite and enters into a dream-like hamburger sensual food bliss (I’ve been there!). On his return trip, Inspector Clouseau, attempts to smuggle hamburgers out of the United States back to France but is arrested going through Customs because he can’t pronounce what was in his pockets (hamburgers).
Comedy fiction (minus the burger smuggling) has become reality in the country of France.
Last year, for the first time ever, the French purchased more hamburgers than its traditional French fast food staple, the Jambon-beurre sandwich (ham and butter sandwich), according to an article in Forbes magazine (written in English). I tried to read the actual report online published by the French consulting company Gira Conseil but it was written in French…the nerve.
Despite its lack of gourmet sophistication, the hamburger has become France’s preferred fast food cuisine with 1.46 billion hamburgers sold last year alone. Hamburgers of all varieties now appear on 85 % of French restaurant menus. And, only 30% of the burgers that were sold last year were sold through fast food outlets with the other 70% coming to diners through traditional sit down restaurants. And French citizens across the country are taking American language lessons so they can properly pronounce the word “hamburger” to place their order (not according to Forbes).
My preferred burger toppings are cheese, dill pickles, crispy lettuce, a slice of fresh and juicy tomato, a slab of very crispy bacon, a dab of catsup and a touch of mustard. Grilled onions and mushrooms work sometimes. Not making the cut are artichoke hearts, pickled beets, hummus, olives, arugula (might as well put dandelion leaves on the burger), mangoes, peanut butter and jelly or the avocado slices that I’ve seen recently. So, what might the French, with their “upgraded palate”, use to top a burger? Here is my best guess how that food order may sound using a horribly fake, French accent…
Monsieur…What would you like on your burger?
I would like Fondue instead of cheddar and add some pan-fried foie gras. Substitute the blood sausage for the bacon…oh and add some steamed escargot with drawn garlic butter.
And, may I have it on a baguette instead of the sesame seed bun?
Thank you, Monsieur. How would you like your burger cooked?
I prefer it beef tartare style and a side order of French fries and a bowl of French Onion soup.
And a Coke to drink?
Non…a French Red Bordeaux wine, S'il vous plaît.