La Hamburgesa (with picture)

Sub specie aeternitatis the Colombian hamburger is . . . well, pardon the cliche, but it is sui generis.

Read on, do not be dismayed

They eat a lot of them here: have whole chains—and a chain is generally more expensive—dedicated to the hamburger: El Corral, Rodeo, Toro Burger—note the Western themes. Nothing says American like a hamburger and it’s like a distorted-Americanized name: it takes on its own peculiar flavor.

You can go to McDonald’s (they all say Macdonald—no S) or Burger King if you want something resembling something you may at a low point in your culinary career have sunk to while in the USA. Or you can try the chains and the wonders of that. Other fast food/chicken places (why aren’ t there more KFC’s here, an Australian once asked; because of the overwhelming preponderance of roast chicken stores—I don’t know where all the chickens come from, but you can usually find twenty of them turning on spits on every corner; and what’s up with the preponderance of American fast food chains in the world anyway?) of the more upscale variety also sell hamburgers, along with all the chicken available.

And then there’s the little parrillas, the smaller pizza places, and the roadside stands. It is in these the Colombian hamburger lives and moves and has its being.

Whatever else you may say about the Colombian hamburger, they’re never stingy on the bread. They always make McDonald’s buns look puny. And they tend to be more exotic than, say, McDonald’s: I’ve gotten quails eggs in one, they often include string fries (potato sticks, whatever you call them), sauteed onions, I had a red tomato on a hamburger once, but usually they’re closer to green and, not least, the inevitable pink sauce.

Pink sauce? I think its just mayonnaise (deadly mayonnaise) and ketchup. And the ketchup here is appears to have its basis more in sugar than in tomato. It is an appalling combination and you have to check to make sure it is withholden, even though the result is inauthentic.

And there’s the meat. It isn’t straightforward meat. Well, they have more straightforward meat at the chains and such, but here they tend to, I think, mix in pork . . . or maybe chicken. They have what they call chicken hamburgers too—nobody in the world is as fond of the chicken as a Colombian. But the square and close knit heart of the Colombian hamburger does not taste like red beef, does not look like red beef, and definitely does not feel like red beef.

It’s the sort of thing one can imagine a Colombian missing when he goes abroad and tries the hamburgers. Can I have a quail egg on that? Do you have any mayonnaise and a few more sugar packets? Why is the lettuce on this so green and why . . . aren’t the tomatoes? What kind of meat is this . . . did you kill a cow for it?

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