MacDonald’s have the Big Mac & Quarter Pounders
Wendy’s has the famous Square Hamburgers
Burger King has the Whopper & Jr Whopper
Hardies has The Thick Burger & Fuddruckers has 1/3, /12, & 1 Pound hamburgers
Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and guests – This story is about how I discovered the best Hamburger ever made.
The year was 1970. The same year that Jimi Hendrix & Janis Joplin died, the start of Monday Night Football with Frank Gifford & Howard Cosell and the Beatles broke up.
I weighed less than 100 pounds, had an acne problem but a full head of beautiful blonde hair
My family lived in the middle of 1100 acres of rolling hills with fishing ponds and a long winding cool clear stream coming out of Sugar Loaf Mountain in rural Maryland.
There were 14 children and a mother and father in an old drafty, but stately farm house with 5 bedrooms and one bath. The kitchen was the largest room in the house with a giant stone fireplace and huge handmade table big enough for all of us to eat together every night.
We lived a simple life – with just enough money to buy the essentials. We made up for the lack of money by raising our own vegetables and livestock.
Every year we planted leaf lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, squash and numerous other vegetables and herbs.
My Dad would use the large powerful and noisy farm tractors to prepare the rich fertile soil in the gardens. Then we would all pitch in and plant the various seeds by hand.
Over the next few months we would water and tend to the growing plants like a new mother to her baby. We pulled weeds, sprayed for bugs and chased away the many varmints that strived to attach our young nimble vegetable plants.
The long rows of tall green stalks of corn seemed to go on forever as they reaching to the heavens for the sun and grew roots deeper and deeper in the ground searching for nutrients for growth.
The long dark green tomato vines spread out across the fertile ground soaking up the sun and water soon to be full of lush firm red tomatoes. The leaves of these plants seemed to wave to us each time we entered the garden to tend to them.
The nearly perfectly straight lines of leaf lettuce fluttered in the breeze as they to soaked up the water out of the grown as the sun glistened off the morning due on the leaves.
The livestock we raised included chickens, turkeys, pigs and cattle. Every morning as we walked up to the stable areas we could hear and smell the livestock. Each of these animals knew our schedule so well that they were rarely not standing near the feed troughs as we arrived to feed them.
My favorite animal was the Holstein beef cattle. These black and white animals, looking somewhat like an oversized zebra are a bulky, yet sturdy and a friendly animal. They roam peacefully and slowly around the fields of green grass all day long. More often than not you would find the herd down by the pond of clear water or grazing near the creek.
In the summer months we provided the cattle with Alfalfa Hay that we harvested and baled off of the farm. We also fed them some of the best oats that could be purchased from the local Southern States farm supply store. This combination made for a very healthy and large animal.
Now in the spring and thru the summer months we all pitched in to tend to the garden and the livestock. We knew that caring for the farm that would provide for us later on was very important.
In the late summer months we started to pick the many ripening vegetables. Our garden always provided a nearly endless supply of firm ripe bright red tomatoes, large solid flavorful onions, baskets and baskets of dark green leaf lettuce and more sweet corn than you could ever imagine.
About the same time that we were picking the vegetables some of the cattle reached the right size for them to be shipped off to the local butcher.
My brothers Nelson and Fred helped my Dad and I round up two of the cattle and load them into the back of the old farm truck. We would then climb up into the cab and take a bouncy ride into town to the local butcher.
We helped unload the cattle and then stood back and watched as they walked into the back door of the building. Within minutes we would hear that sound of the nail gun which our Dad told us would be the instance when the cattle would die painlessly, yet permanently. Dad knew that this was a traumatic event for his young’uns.
“Boys,” Dad called to us, “Let’s go around and tell them how to cut up the beef.” Dad led us around this room and into the cool area of the meat locker where we told the butcher that we wanted lots of ground beef and only a few roasts and steaks. We knew that this was the best use of the beef for a large family.
It seemed like only seconds before 2 workers walked in pulling our cattle which hung on hooks off of a trolley suspended from the ceiling.
The workers were dressed in rumpled and blood stained white coveralls. They had white hats on their heads, rubber gloves on their hands and large black rubber boots on their feet. They were dressed well for the task that they had to do.
Once they reached the big solid butchers block tables they commenced performing the task of turning the carcasses into large hunks of beef with sharp knives. They worked feverishly at this task. They moved with precision and steadiness which you would only expect from someone who has slaughter cattle for many years.
There was not a lot of chit chat – they passed instructions back and forth as they decided what sections of beef would be used for what purpose.
One of the guys worked on the carcass as another grabbed the slabs of beef and cut it up or ground it up. Then a third guy wrapped the final product up in freezer paper and put it into boxes for us.
Again, it seemed like minutes, but I’m sure it was well over a few hours before we were back in the truck with the boxes of beef stored securely in the back where previously the cattle stood.
When we got home we helped our mother unload the boxes and carefully stack the wrapped packages in the big deep freezer in the storage room next to the kitchen.
Mom kept out a few packages of the ground beef which she took into the kitchen.
Later that day after we did our garden and farm chores Mom called us for dinner.
The table was covered with bowls of fresh corn, green beans and squash.
Mom had baked fresh home made rolls. The smell of these rolls always made me hungry.
There was a plate full of onions and tomatoes next to a colander of fresh leaf lettuce.
The main course was Hamburger. Mom passed around the food for each of us to put on our dinner plates.
As the food reached me I put a slice of tomato and onion on a roll. I piled a pickle on top and then placed a juicy medium rare hamburger on top of it all.
I closed up the roll and then sat there staring at the hamburger in my hands.
We raised all of the vegetables and the cattle ourselves – it was a lot of work, but I knew it was worth it.
It only took one bite for me to realize that this was not just a great hamburger – it was the best hamburger ever.
The flavor of the tomato, onion and pickle merged with the juicy warm hamburger created a beautiful attack on my taste buds. Each bite helped to amplify the flavor and joy that my senses felt from this feast.
Yes – this was the best hamburger ever.