Sitting in a silver diner in Miami Beach I devoured a cheese and bacon burger topped with fried red peppers and onions.
I remember it as the best burger I’ve ever had.
I remember it as a time when I was truly happy.
It was 20 years ago and I’ve been searching for that level of happiness, and that deliciousness of burger ever since.
When burgers became a proper thing in London a few years ago (obviously they’d always been a thing but with purveyors like Lucky Chip they became an art form in pub kitchens) I was hoping one would have the oceanside vibe of my Miami Beach one from years gone by.
Sadly none have proved a match for that so far (especially sometimes in pre-Covid times when you’d go to Old Queens Head in Islington to be told they haven’t got any fries because it’s a Sunday so you end up with a burger and roast potatoes) but thanks to a birthday present of a burger kit I came pretty close.
For those of you not familiar: meal kits have been around for ages, with the likes of Hello Fresh and Gousto providing all you need to create a meal, and you subscribe so you have to pay a lot for so-called restaurant quality food.
There are also others like Pasta Evangelists where people pay around £8 per meal and get some fresh pasta and a sauce in a box.
It used to advertise on social media a lot with excruciatingly bad adverts where people (probably non-influential influencers) filmed themselves talking about how getting their Pasta Evangelists delivery is the highlight of the week and it’s so quick to prepare – oh mate, you’ve paid money for something you could have bought in the supermarket for an eighth of the price.
But during lockdown when restaurants weren’t allowed to open quite a few of them started selling ‘at home’ kits so you could make their dishes at home.
This includes some burger places.
I’d looked at burger kits back in April and May but decided £15 for two burgers (and postage on top of that) was way too much when I could either buy my own mince or get a pre-made burger from the supermarket.
Time changes a man though and so does the fact an Honest burger kit was sent to me by some friends to celebrate my birthday.
The kit contains everything you need to make two of their Honest burgers (apart from lettuce and salt and pepper.
So you get red onion relish, pickled cucumber, burger buns, cheddar slices, smoked streaky bacon and – the most important part of all – chopped British chuck steak and rib cap patties. (You also get a completely unnecessary Honest green tote bag.)
But just because the kit contains those things doesn’t mean you have to follow the instructions to the letter.
If, like me, you’re still looking for the level of happiness you experienced 20 years ago and don’t want to take instructions from The Man (even though you wear a mask in public places – obvs) then I suggest going rogue with the ingredients.
The most important part of the whole creation is the patty – with the blend of flavours from the combination of meat cuts creating a special taste which you don’t get with any mass-produced supermarket burger. As long as you keep it as the star of the show then, I think, you’re good to go and create your own special.
I abandoned the red onion relish and instead worked up my best attempt at the burger I had in Miami Beach – with red peppers and onions and went even further by creating an Old Bay mayonnaise and Old Bay encrusted wedges. Why the mayonnaise? Because everyone deserves a lot of Old Bay every now and again.
And, just like with burgers in the kitchen, this year more than any other it’s important to remember you can create your own path in life.
If you don’t like cheese, leave it out. If you don’t like pickles, leave them out. If you want a bit of crunch then add in whatever you fancy. It’s your burger and it’s your happiness.
Stay safe for another week!