The first time I experienced a blue and black burger I was at an alumni magazine editor conference (yes, such a thing exists) in Boston. Because the travel gods were against me, my true fun and adventurous self was buried beneath a head cold. Still, I rallied as best I could to see the city with my boyfriend and travel partner. After a long day of conferencing, which peaked with the unbelievably big name speaker Susan Orlean, whom I still consider to be the ultimate profile writer and a pioneer of creative nonfiction journalism, we tried to find a restaurant close to our hotel.
Near the campus of MIT, we discovered the Boston Burger Company. I really never considered myself a burger person, as meat in general is not a large staple in my diet. At the time, my favorite hamburger came from McDonald’s, and I do not mean the Quarter Pounder or double patty Big Mac, but the 99 cent one with the thin slab of barely detectable meat. Mostly because I am a big fan of those partially dehydrated onions that are sold in vats at Gordon Foods, which are generously doled on every McDonalds burger. I know, as I spent a year of my adolescence working underneath the golden arches. Nothing helps teenage acne like steam from the deep fryers.
Despite my health and hesitations, I looked for a new culinary experience at every Boston stop. The best part of travel is food discoveries: salmon in Seattle, gumbo in New Orleans, deep dish pizza in Chicago, etc. Two of the criteria of a good trip are a good meal and a new experience. Often, they go hand and hand.
I initially chose the black and blue burger because I associated the term “blackened” with well done, which is the only way I like my beef. Any sign of red, reminding me that this was once blood-filled animal flesh, causes me to immediately gag. Again, not a meat person. However, that night I became a burger person. The sheer quantity of seasonings penetrated my plugged sinuses and actually made an impression on my dulled taste buds. I especially enjoyed the combination of sharp flavors as the seasonings melded with the blue cheese. The burger, which included an eight ounce patty, was dauntingly large. And I ate the whole thing. Every crumb.
Since that trip, I’ve ordered many blue and black burgers: some with a blue cheese sauce instead of crumbles, some with bacon, some with caramelized onions, some with turkey instead of beef. I loved them all. For 30 days I am saying goodbye to brioche and pretzel buns, which means I am saying good-bye to burgers.
Tonight, as I adjust to this new diet paradigm, I attempted to make a blue and black salad. I took my burger meat and instead of making patties fried it into crumbles. As it cooked I dosed it with a black and blue seasoning recipe I found online (minus the thyme, which tastes like how musty smells). I softened some onions in the microwave, as sautéed onions are my favorite burger topping. Then I sprinkled this over baby lettuce and blue cheese crumbles. I drizzle the whole concoction with a yogurt based blue cheese dressing. It was tasty, but I found the blue cheese a bit overpowering in this format.
The challenge is still a challenge. While I felt full after eating my blue and black salad, I still felt a craving for something. I don’t necessarily crave bread — it’s more of an intangible yearning. What can fill the gluten void?