geoffrey gauchet

An Ode

It’s 2am and you’ve just finished a long night of imbibing, or maybe a movie marathon at a friend’s house. Or maybe it’s 5am and you’re heading to the early shift at work. You can feel that rumbling in your stomach. It’s not the usual “I’m a little hungry, but it’s late, I should just go to bed” type of rumble. It’s more than that. It’s a rumble that deserves satisfaction and there is but one thing that man has bestowed upon his fellow man that will satiate this rumbling, tumbling, tummy.

You park your car out front, loosely located in a legal parking space. As soon as your door opens, you can smell it. You can smell the char in the air, the distinct smell of fire a mere 5 inches away from a slab of meat. But wait — there’s something else in the air. Ah yes, a hint of hickory-flavored liquid smoke, lovingly blended with ketchup and onion powder, simmering for hours in a cauldron over an electric burner.

You walk through the door, and you gaze upon the other patrons. Some laughing, some glaring out the window as if they’re waiting for someone or something to tell them that whatever just happened tonight was okay. Some of them look scary and unapproachable, others are police officers, keeping us safe and solving a crime right before your eyes — the crime of an empty stomach.

You approach the counter. Is there even a menu? You wouldn’t know; it’s been years since you’ve ever looked at it anyway. You order your meal much in the same way James Bond orders a drink: “A number 4, sauce, yes onions, order of fries, and a Barq’s.”

You pull out your wallet and you pass over your credit card and hand the keeper of the meat cash in lieu of your credit card because you want to remember the days when cold, hard cash was the only method of meat retrieval.

You sit at the wooden table, rocking back and forth on the lop-sided bench. You brush away the spilled salt on the table, as you read the names carved so diligently and carefully into the table, with such gusto and size that John Hancock himself would be impressed. You start to wonder what “J Dawg” is up to on this night, and why, why on Mother Earth is he anywhere but here?

“48!” you hear them cry out in the near-distance. You sashay toward the counter, knowing full-well what is in store for you and your taste buds. You carefully, confidently carry the tray to the graffitied table top and slide it as delicately as a father pushes his child on a swing.

You don’t notice it, but you take a moment to absorb everything that is in front of you. The tall, 32oz cup holding back the sea of root beer, with the slow-rolling droplets of condensation running down the sides like rain on a window. And there, there are two pouches, sealed on only two of the four sides. You carefully tear one open to form an elongated placemat, not unlike a red carpet that keeps only the world’s most respected from having to touch the dirty ground beneath them. There it sits: a soft, tan bun; a light brown, charred-like-someone-forgot-it slab of beef; ah, and that familiar hickory-flavored liquid-smoke infused ketchup with onion powder sauce slathered all over, completely carefree and bountiful; and a clump, nay, a mound of cheddar cheese, largely un-melted; and finally, a fluffy, tan crown to top it off. ‘A crown is a fitting description of that top layer’, you think to yourself, as this, this flame-broiled burger is the one true king of the burgers. You lift it up toward your mouth, as God himself lifts the Angles up toward the heavens, and you take that initial bite, savoring the smokiness, the sauce! The cheese! The diced onions, oh, how can we forget the diced onions! And suddenly, you look down.

What’s this? We’ve lost some cheddar as it slid in an avalanche-like manner out of the bun, along with some burgundy sauce. Ah, but have no fear! For that wonderful cheddar and hickory sauce mixture landed on the most perfect, golden french fry poking out of the second paper pouch as if it was reaching out to save his fallen cheddar/sauce comrade. 

Of all the horrible, and awful possibilities that could have resulted from this, none of them happened. And you respectfully dispose of the cheddar/sauce-covered fry with dignity. Thank you, golden fry, for you have come to the rescue yet again.

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