You might have missed it. I did, and I’m still feeling a little guilty.
I’ll blame it on the lack of media visibility during the recent holiday weekend, even though that’s not a thing anymore.
May 28, the day before Memorial Day, was National Hamburger Day — or as most news outlets called it, National Burger Day, not to be confused with National Cheeseburger Day, which is slated for Sept. 18 this year.
As the news release stated, “Americans are kicking off the official start of grilling season this Memorial Day weekend and firing up their barbecues in celebration of National Hamburger Day on Sunday.”
As the release from the Beef Checkoff people urged Americans, last Sunday was a day to “join the fun with just-released, ‘hot off the grill’ favorite burger recipes and culinary inspiration.”
Here’s my problem with National Burger/Hamburger Day, in addition to the fact that the event got totally lost in the long weekend festivities (which for many Americans means lounging around the house not cooking, or whiling away an afternoon at movie theaters where they definitely don’t sell burgers). Rather than the typical celebration for some less well-known food product that needs publicity, National Burger Day served as a platform for every half-a**ed website wanna-be to post a bunch of lame memes about hamburgers.
Some were mildly funny, like a photo set up to look like “The Most Interesting Cat in the World,” with the caption, “I don’t always eat cheeseburgers, but when I do, I barf it up on the carpet.”
Others were downright hateful, like a series of photos of people convicted of fighting/stabbing/murdering their friend/relative/spouse because they wouldn’t share/cook/hand over a hamburger on demand.
Those are crime, not culinary, stories.
More than one corporation turned National Burger Day into a promo for beef-less shamburgers.
“Holland America Line is paying homage to the American classic that has elevated itself to worldwide admiration,” the company’s news release proclaimed. “Pleasing the palates of meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, not only does the cruise line feature gourmet and veggie burgers at Dive-In at the Terrace Grill, but also patties can be found on the menus at Pinnacle Grill and The Dining Room.”
In addition to questioning the validity of hijacking an American classic to promote the opposite of an actual hamburger, I have to ask the geniuses who penned that awkwardly worded statement: Who were you targeting? People already onboard a cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean? Who cares about the menu at “The Dining Room” (how creative is that moniker?) if you’re not in the midst of doing what occupies most passengers during the bulk of their cruise: deciding where to eat their next meal?
Of course, in addition to touting their “Black Bean Burgers,” (and I guarantee The Most Interesting Cat in the World wouldn’t touch that abomination), Holland America proceeded to offer up a series of “20 unique signature burgers.”
And therein lies the problem.
Instead of promoting the sublime taste of freshly ground beef, properly seared and seasoned on a toasted bun, much of the media coverage — descriptive as well as photographic — was devoted to lavish concoctions consisting of a single lonely beef patty buried under an avalanche of topping, garnishes, sauces and dressings.
For example, Parade magazine, that enduring paragon of whatever is the opposite of haute cuisine, led the way with a “Burger Madness” article — with the emphasis on madness.
Consider the toppings Parade’s editors decided were au courant for “enhancing” a hamburger: fried eggs, grilled pineapple, shrimp patties (?), sauerkraut, apple pie (??), pickled ginger and peanut butter.
All of those items are so wrong on so many levels.
The Beef Checkoff folks also climbed aboard the Bizarre Burger Bandwagon, promoting the new “Beef 101: Burger Bar.” The video clip features “Burger recipes from around the world, from a burger inspired by Southern barbecue to a burger fit for the Greek islands, to one that borrows flavors from an Italian summer staple, the Caprese Salad.”
You and I know the Caprese Salad as tomato and mozzarella slices topped with basil leaves, and that’s the point: A salad by any other name belongs in a bowl, not on a burger.
Especially on National (Ham)Burger Day.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.