Stopping at the McDonalds, where we were to meet, I order a breakfast burrito and cup of coffee. Then I moved aside so the guy behind me could order. I couldn’t help but hear him place his order. He said, “I’d like a cup of coffee and a rare hamburger. Not medium rare – rare.”
Suddenly memories of my days as a fast food cook flashed into my head . . .
As a young college student I had landed a job at a fast food restaurant three days after arriving in town. It was a job that provided some excellent perks.
It was a fast food restaurant like McDonald’s but instead of just serving hamburgers and fries, they had fish sandwiches, fried chicken, tacos, fish and chips, sausage sandwiches, and ice cream. One of the benefits was we could eat anything we wanted for free. This was great for a young, single college guy. But an even better benefit was everyone else who worked there was either a high school or college lady. A job that paid me, gave me free food and the chance to work with some attractive and available women. These are the kind of perks that makes you pause and think – does life get any better than this?
In these types of restaurants things are standardized so the quality is the same from one restaurant to another. For example hamburgers were pre-formed and frozen when we received them. They were made at a ratio of 22 to 1, meaning one pound of meat made 22 hamburgers. We would thaw out the patties prior to cooking and since they were thin they cooked fast. They were to be cooked for one and half to two minutes on each side. Tacos were to be deep fried for thirty seconds. Fish was to be fried for 2 minutes, two pieces of fish per order served with half an order of fries.
Now when you’re trying to cook for a bus full of tourist or several vans full of students passing through town a special order could really screw you up. While cooking for a bus full of tourist there was a request for a rare hamburger. I made it the best I could. It came back as being to done. I made another; it too came back as being to done. I took yet another hamburger patty, placed it on the grill, waited twenty seconds, flipped it, waited another twenty seconds and then prepared it. It came back as being over cooked. I’m trying to cook for a whole bus of hungry people while one person wants to be a connoisseur of a forty-nine cent hamburger. By my fourth attempt I was a frustrated. I took a hamburger patty, threw it on the grill, turned it over and then scooped it off. The total time on the grill was less than five seconds. Placing it on the bun I notice it looked rare, well, actually it looked raw but I thought to myself, “You want rare, you’ll get rare.” I doctored it up with mustard, ketchup, and a pickle which were the standard condiments, wrapped it up and sent it out. It must have been perfect because it didn’t come back this time.
At McDonalds I had received my order and was sitting in a booth. I watched the man who had ordered the rare hamburger. He sat down, took one bite, glared at the hamburger, hastily wrapped it up and marched back to the counter. I chuckled to myself as I thought, “Okay, I can leave now. I know where this is going.”