Burgers. Slap some sort of protein between two halves of bun, jazz it up with extra meat/cheese/vegetable garnishes, drench with sauce and voila! A professed people pleaser. Huh. As a committed vegetarian, burgers – unless made by moi – are approached with caution. Encounters with starchy, soggy, bland patties are all too familiar.
New York Minute is a Melbourne-based ‘gourmet burger’ franchise. At the Carlton outlet a large menu covers the wall adjacent to the counter. As we stand pondering the ever-so important selection to be made (food-regret is to be avoided at all costs), we are offered menus – glossy A4 paper folded into a brochure. Table service extends to the delivery of yo-burger-and-fries by a twenty-something friendly jock, clad in knee-length denim shorts, polo shirt and jauntily positioned baseball cap. We receive a wee pot of chilli aioli for free, with a wink. As Shugart (2008) notes: food functions as a mode of communication, imbued with meaning…
The venue is small, with diner-style tables and black seats. No pictures or posters adorn the walls. Simplicity. The burger rests in a red wire basket, nestled atop grease-proof paper covered in the ‘NYM logo’. The chips – the highlight of the meal – peek out at us from a miniature fryer basket. Tap-water is self-serve with disposable plastic cups from the dispenser.
18 burgers present themselves on the menu, each with an ‘Americana’ name. Tradition, ‘authentic’ and true taste are key words. My ‘Springtime Veggie Burger’ has the weakest connotation, insinuating that if you’re after the ‘authentic’ American experience, it’ll involve meat – which is central to the American diet according to Belasco (2008).
The squishy vegetable patty is reminiscent of poor choices at British pub chains while on exchange. Although it left much to be desired, the burger experience was familiar. Treating ourselves to a ‘naughty’ burger (usually at Grill’d) before heading to the cinema (or in this case, James Bay) is a tradition for myself and and a gal pal. Cheap (roughly $9.90 to $15) and filling, it reflects two of the key factors in student culinary decisions. For us it was not a matter of cultural capital (Ashley 2004), but economic.
Health is a significant personal influence, however the buying of a burger is steeped in nostalgia – of friendship, camaraderie and the need to be satiated. Chowing down on one in Kisumu, Kenya after back-breaking volunteer work was heaven. Familiar: and for an – albeit adventurous – 18 year old that was a precious thing.