The thing about burgers is that in most situations you’d only ever eat one of them in one sitting. Then if you’re at a barbecue it suddenly feels wholly acceptable to eat three in an afternoon along with two hot dogs and a chicken drumstick. All bets are similarly off around the Christmas period with food in general: a lawless time when it feels reasonable to have fudge for breakfast and you can drink Hofmeister at 10am without anyone raising an eyebrow. And so it’s the day after Boxing Day, I’ve got it to myself before I’m away for a couple of days, and going to the effort of making one burger seems a waste of energy so I’m going to have two.
In the Co-Op there’s the air of a Sports Direct closing down sale, with one day’s closure midweek having thrown all the best-before dates out of whack, and everything’s flashing an orange sticker, crying out to be bought and frozen before it goes gnarly. There’s some beef mince so I grab that up, and a bag of salad that advertises some sort of sweet leaf bonanza alongside bits of shredded beetroot. In the days to come this approach will lead to a freezer space crisis, to alleviate which I am forced into a makeshift New Year’s Day bolognese to use up the rest of this mince, plus some Quorn mince that’s been there forever, and the frozen remnants of an experimental (ie unsuccessful) mushroom and tomato pasta sauce I made months ago in the blender.
I watch one of the numerous burger recipe videos on the Tasty app. It is called the “Juicy Lucy” and it wants me to envelop a chunk of cheddar inside the patty, to melt appealingly when later cut in half in a perfectly Instagrammable scene. The idea has merit, but I decide against it. To be frank, the chances of it remaining perfectly intact without a bit of cheese leaking out in the pan and burning all over it are slim, and to be even franker the name “Juicy Lucy” is forever associated in my mind with a book I once read about Fred West, who nicknamed one of his victims this on account of her vaginal discharge. If you ask me it’s in pretty poor taste for the makers of the Tasty app to deliberately invoke the crimes of one of Britain’s most notorious murderers, as they plainly have here, to popularise a cheese-stuffed burger.
For Christmas I received a hand blender, which I put to use making a relish. I quarter a red onion and drop it in the bowl attachment, then blitz it up and add some mayonnaise, before cracking open the house pickle. This is a mason jar I’ve got in the fridge filled with vinegar, water, salt, sugar and mustard seeds, into which I add any bits of crunchyish vegetable that I’m not going to use up. There are bits of green chilli in there and the odd rogue chickpea and slice of carrot, but at the moment it’s mainly cabbage. I mix this in with a fork, toast the sliced sides of two buns in the dry pan, and spread it on.
All the burgers need is a bit of seasoning and some vegetable oil to help them along in the pan. I’ve got some strong cheddar which I cut far too thickly because it’s crumbly and a thin slice would see it disintegrate, and as a result it hardly melts when I add it to the tops of the patties in the pan once they’ve been turned over. It doesn’t matter too much. There’s only so far you can go wrong when adding cheese to things.
Once they’re layered (bottom bun, relish, burger, cheese, beetroot salad, top bun) and plated up with the new potatoes I’ve roasted with some olive oil, I’ve just about been proved correct: bearing in mind they always shrink in the pan, two burgers is just about the right amount. This is a victory for common sense and proves beyond question that we must all eat the year round as we do in the Christmas lull if we are ever to live together in harmony.