THE LA Weekly has just announced a sure-to-be-controversial top-10 burgers list. Over here at the Misread City, we can occasionally lift our noses out of Faulkner (you'll see that one next week) and foreign film (next week also) to consume quantities of ground beef and carmelized onions. To inaugurate the poll, here is a short ode to the burger written by Wendy Fonarow, a UCLA-trained anthropologist, LA native, and longtime friend of the Misread City.
Here she is:
As an anthropology professor and researcher in indie music, I find it funny that over the years, students have asked me to write about burgers more than anything else.
There are few subjects that will derail me from the topic at hand, but the beloved cheeseburger is one of them. From espousing the placebo effect of In-and-Out burgers (don’t be jealous you don’t have such an amazing placebo) or railing against those who bag on McDonalds for being disloyal, burgers are in my blood and perhaps make up 20 percent of my body mass. Being a native Los Angeleno makes one extraordinarily well positioned to discuss burgers.
We are the cutting edge of fast food, hybrid cuisine and the innovators of so much including the drive through squawk box. I’m often asked what is the best burger and my answer is “only a heathen would ask that.” It’s like saying what is the best dessert. How can you compare a pie, to an ice cream cake or a donut? Only a person who doesn’t like sweets would do that.
There are genres of burgers: the thousand-island, the mayonnaise, the restaurant, the mustard, the chiliburger, and the hickory. These are the major ones and I might include the outdoor grill, sans cheese, and bacon-added as well. It is perhaps these distinctions that capture the imagination of my students. Most people tend to have a favorite style and therefore use their favorite flavor profile to trump these enormously different categories of food.
So if there is going to be a discussion, let’s be precise. Shall we begin with a vote for your favorite restaurant style burger? I’d tell you mine, but then I’d have to make you take me there.