Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sweet Thursday. eating. (cheeseburgers).

Thursday is my favorite day of the week. I leave work early and have time to cook dinner for myself, stop at the grocery store, wander around to see if anything interesting catches my eye. If I'm too tired to make an effort and I am home alone I make cheeseburgers. (It's not a meal I would inflict on anyone else; like pancakes for dinner or grilled cheese or bacon sandwiches it is a solitary sort of meal). I buy organic ground beef from the local co-op, aged cheddar, English muffins instead of buns. A splash of Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce, a sprinkle of ground black pepper. I love the cold sticky feel of the meat between my fingers, as I gently mix the seasonings in, mold the patties between my palms, press them flat against squares of waxed paper. Cook the burgers in a heavy cast-iron skillet, toast the muffins. Slice some of the cheese, flip the burgers, place the cheese on the cooked side so it will melt as the patties finish. Dinner's ready.

There is, of course, no substitute for a properly grilled hamburger. The taste of beef licked by flame, faintly striped with charred lines from the grill, a lightly toasted bun, cheese melting over tomatoes and lettuce and ketchup or some mysterious sauce. It calls to mind summer barbecues with family and friends, under the sun, eating together at wooden picnic tables that gouged you with splinters if you weren't careful. Or winter nights in your favorite pub with friends, drinking beer and eating fries. It might seem silly to order a burger at a restaurant, but sometimes you just want a really good burger that you didn't have to make yourself. There's no point in wasting stomach space on fast-food ones, soggy and uninteresting (unless you are on a road trip, or desperate. Somehow when you eat one it tastes good in the moment but five minutes later you regret it).

As it seems ridiculous to haul out the barbecue just for me (not to mention too cold), I use an enamelled cast-iron pan on the stove for my burgers. The black-enameled interior gives everything cooked inside a beautifully crusty exterior. Set the heat to medium, turn on the fan, open a window. The result is two perfectly cooked little burgers, juicy and beefy and cheesy, which together with a gently foaming, cool glass of beer make the perfect dinner for tonight.

Thursday really is my favorite night of the week.

(Sweet Thursday is a novel by John Steinbeck, his sequel to Cannery Row, a return to the old characters and their new lives after the war. I have not read it in a long time. Perhaps next Thursday).

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