Its rise from a lowly patty of chopped meat to the aristocracy of foods; its charismatic and delicious descendants; the arguments it inspires — over ethics and blends and tastes; and Silicon Valley’s attempt to replace it with a meat that is not meat at all.
The grilling armies in the city’s burger wars usually hail from Manhattan, but every competition needs new contenders. The Burger Battle of the Boroughs will be on May 20 in Astoria as part of the Cuisine of Queens & Beyond tasting event. Staten Island could not field a team, but representatives from Brooklyn (The Farm on Adderley, 67 Burger), Queens (Harry’s at Water Taxi Beach, Joe’s Bestburger), and the Bronx (Coals) will battle Brgr and Resto — the latter being Rob and Robin’s favorite burger in New York last year.
By a happy coincidence, two videos, both demonstrating the breadth of the human experience as encompassed by the mighty but still humble hamburger, have just turned up on the Web. In one, artist David Greg Harth stands in front of a Greenwich Village McDonald’s offering to buy random pedestrians a free meal. Banal performance “happening,” in which a trustafarian art student spends his grant money? Maybe. But a mere eleven minutes in, angry cops, sicced on the hapless Harth by the corporate behemoth he so obliquely critiques, rush the video to its disturbing but somehow inevitable dénouement. Meanwhile, Serious Eats is showing a clip from George Motz’s Hamburger America documentary, featuring a kindly old soul in Meers, Oklahoma, who lovingly raises heritage Texas longhorn cattle only to slaughter and then serve the beasts in his roadside restaurant. One video’s a portrait of a gentle man tending to a disappearing culture; the other, a gritty look at corporate culture’s hard, paradoxical realities. And yet neither would not have been possible without that patty-shaped embodiment of American culture. Another reason to love your hamburgers, America.
Free Burger! [Neatorama]
Hamburger America: The Meers Store [Serious Eats]