I love hamburgers. In fact, they are practically my most favourite dish.
Forget Jughead from the old Archie comics, or — if you are a tad older — Wimpy from the Popeye strip (“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”), because I am the true burger king.
My family doctor can certainly attest to my over-fondness for hamburgers (actually cheeseburgers with lettuce, onions, ketchup and mayo, if you please), as her eyes practically popped right out of her head when she saw the results of a blood test I took a few months ago.
“You have REALLY high cholesterol,” she exclaimed, while fumbling on the floor for her eyes. “What do you eat?”
Burgers, I replied sheepishly.
Needless to say, I’ve been forbidden from eating anything handed to me “by someone wearing a name tag,” as she put it. I’ve mostly followed that directive this summer, and I apologize if anyone at the local fast food joints had to be let go because sales suddenly and mysteriously dropped off.
I am, however, allowed to eat burgers I cook myself at home, but in something strange and foreign called “moderation.” If that’s the same thing as a bun, then I’m doing really well.
I actually don’t eat as much burger meat at home, to be truly honest, mostly because my wonderful wife Julie has been a vegetarian since we started dating some 20 or more years ago. Yes, Alanis, isn’t it ironic that one of the world’s biggest carnivores just happens to be shacked up with a veggie lover who’s leaning more and more toward veganism every day? But it’s cool. I just consider her a free-range human. However, if we’re ever trapped on a desert isle together… she’s probably in really big trouble.
She doesn’t like the fact that we have to kill animals (living things) to fill our guts, when there’s stuff like chickpeas, tofu and… ulp… kale to attempt digesting. Of course, when I point out that vegetables are living organisms too, and we callously murder them for salads (All We Are Saying Is Give Peas A Chance)… she just rolls her eyes and counts imaginary insurance money from when I die of a beef-related heart attack.
So it really piqued my curiosity when earlier this month the very first lab-grown hamburger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London. Essentially, Dutch scientists took cells from a cow, turned them into strips of muscle and combined it to make a patty. Researchers say the technology could be a healthier (the patties can be engineered to have less fat) and more sustainable way of meeting a growing global demand for meat, and taste-testers said it tasted “close to real meat.” Even the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) came out in favour of the petri-dish hamburgers. But unfortunately, developers say cultured beef could only end up on supermarket shelves and in Happy Meals within the next 10 to 20 years.
So for the next couple decades I’ll just have to bide my time, cook lean burgers on my own barbecue, and try to smile politely when my wife asks, “Do you want kale chips with that?”