Vancouver, Canada, which is the perfection of the best city you have ever been in, has at least one big problem besides its high taxes: its regulations on hamburgers. Actually it all traces to a larger regulation in British Columbia generally. I’ve never visited when this regulation did not vex me personally and become the topic of ongoing conversation.
It’s all about the temperature to which you are required to cook hamburger meat. It all must be well done, all in the interest of saving you and me and everyone from some dangerous disease that comes with underdone hamburgers, or so the authorities say.
It’s the kind of regulation that creates the fear. All over the United States and the world, people order hamburgers medium and even rare. But not in Vancouver. It must be cooked to death, black as tar and dry as a bone. It’s been true since 1974 and nothing is going to change.
It’s perfectly preposterous but there is no movement to put an end to hamburger puritanism. I can imagine that any political party that would attempt to change the regulation would be branded as pro-disease, willing to risk the lives of multitudes in the name of laissez faire.
So the regulations will probably last forever. As a result, hamburgers in Vancouver are pretty darn weird. Cooks see the need to add moisture to the burgers, so they come with massive amounts of additives.
Burgers are covered with piles of cheeses that are dripped deeply into the meat. Buns are slathered with mayonnaise mixtures of various sorts, all kinds of special sauces. They are piled high with things like bacon, greasy potatoes, super-wet lettuce and tomatoes, and creamy breakfast foods like buttered oatmeal. Anything to add back in what is taken out.
Now, I’m no dietician, but I have some sense that these strategies for adding goop to the burger can’t be as good for you as keeping in the plain old beef fat. Surely doing this adds massive calories, and truly it takes away the enjoyment. The hamburger part, in the end, still tastes dry and boring. All credit goes to the creative chefs here for making good out of a bad situation, but, in the end, it’s all pointless.
Now, to be sure, there is apparently something of a gray market for pink burgers. Every so often you will see an ad for a restaurant that cooks its hamburgers “to order,” which is a hint and nudge that you might be able to get the cook to give you something other than a lump of coal slathered with sauce between two buns. But advertising like this is very risky. You are risking a visit from the health department plus huge fines.
I’ve heard tell of other places that will serve burgers medium well, but they know better than to advertise. The proprietors have to vet their customers very carefully in case there is a surreptitious sting operation under way. If someone comes in overly dressed and with affected casualness, there is a high risk it is a meat inspector. In that case, the cook burns the hell out of the burger just to make the point.
Then of course you can make your own at home, since, so far, Canada’s food police has not managed to install surveillance cameras in every kitchen. This sort of breaking bad is very popular in Vancouver’s private party circuit. These homemade eat-easys defy the government in ways that no inspector can quite control.
But despite these hints of defiance, what’s most disturbing is the extent to which residents of British Columbia have come to terms with their oppression, Canada’s own Stockholm Syndrome. Most just think that this is the way it should be. Many have even internalized the fake fear of pink, believing that anything less than a charbroiled brick on a bun represents E-Coli danger.
What’s strange is how this wild health fear affects only burgers. Otherwise, people in Vancouver are woofing down raw oysters, eating sushi with thin slices of raw meat, taking wild risks with the most dangerous food on the planet, namely the sea mussel.
Besides the high taxes, the plywood patty is the only real downside to visiting and living in Vancouver. It’s otherwise a perfect place that is a feast for the eyes, with gorgeous architecture and a stunning view of the harbor. Vancouver’s burger problem is a reminder that it is in part thanks to stupid government regulations that the eschaton cannot finally be immanentized.