To Serve: People. Burgers! (4)

It’s 1 AM, and we’re in the living room of the cheapest apartment at the end of the furthest TTC bus line. Ash and Cam, two first-year culinary school students, sit amongst the Thrift Town plush of their living room and decompress with a (legal) Canadian joint after work at their externship downtown. It’s time to turn on some music.

Tonight we’re listening to The Real Mckenzies album “Westwinds.”

“Burgers and people exist in the same way. Neither are strictly defined. Both fall on a spectrum.” Cam said with authority.

“Well, that’s not true. I can’t serve you a fish stew and call it a hamburger!” Said Ash in anguish.

“Maybe not now, but who’s to say? In a million years, maybe a fish stew will be equivalent to a hamburger.”

“Maybe humans will have wings in a million years! We’re here today, and a hamburger is not the same thing as a fish stew!”

“Forget the fish stew. You can still recognize that what defines burgers works a little like human evolution, no?”

“Can I?”

“Yes! In the past, someone was born who was the most like current humans. But in the future, as humans continue to evolve, that first person who is most like what future humans will be, will shift. There will be someone else in the past more like the people that we’ll become, making that original ‘first person’ not enough like the people we will become!”


“There is no ‘first burger’ because there is no ‘first human!’ The plutonic burger is in a state of constant flux! Burgers are merely a parallel to humanity!”

“Holy shit. Stop.”

“Yeah, I know! This weed is strong!”

“You’re overthinking things. You and I won’t be alive in a million years. Here. Today. A hamburger is cooked ground beef on a bun. That’s just what it is.”

“Look. We act as if all dishes are firmly established, but no, all food is just seven billion people shoving their faces full of stuff in the hopes that it tastes good.”

“Yes. And when we all agree something tastes good, we call it something specific so that we can eat it again.”

“But how many people record the details of what they eat?”

“If you count Instagram, we do it more than we probably should.”

“We act like there is some definitive record of the first hamburger. But there’s no firm evidence. It’s all arbitrary. Remember those old Reese ads about chocolate and peanut butter? In the ads, people kept stumbling across the pair of chocolate and peanut butter over the years, but it wasn’t until someone in Hershey, PA trademarked the stuff that we gave a shit. I bet it’s the same with the burger.”

“Is this the ‘tree in the woods’ theory? It doesn’t exist if we don’t hear it?”

“I think it’s less about who creates something first, and who makes people aware of something. It’s Thomas Edison. It’s Alexander Graham Bell. They didn’t invent shit, but their popularity decided how we talked on the phone and wired our houses. In some ways I guess that makes, like, White Castle the ‘inventor’ of the burger.”

“Huh. Does that mean all definitions belong to the corporations who popularize them?”

“Maybe. That would be sad.”

“The internet changes some of that I guess.”

“Yeah. But if that’s true — think about it. Instagram. Foodspotting. Every Weight Watchers diary and MyFitnesspal entry. Those apps are what will define food definitions for the next million years.”


This is a continuing story inspired by Vik, the terrible 1986 flick “Hamburger: The Motion Picture,” and the fascinating 1990 film “Mindwalk.”

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