Burger Queendom: the Pachola, the Hamburguesita Casera, and the Effortlessly-Fancy Burger (with McDonald's Copycat Dressing).

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That, which calls itself the “best burger” is the promise of a utopia; it is an invitation into a hall of mirrors where you are groomed to believe that you can be anything you want; that by surrendering your teeth into its intoxicating smokey aroma and mouthwatering golden-juiciness, you too can become an amplified version of yourself, a “best you”. Real-good burgers, do not sell themselves as such, they are not made with the meat of cleopatrian oxes or are filled with nonsensical eccentricities like camembert or foie gras, they are so effortlessly delicious, kind-hearted, and selfless that they can perfectly be eaten naked, just like their long-lost Mexican relative: the pachola.      

I have an uncle who used to say that my mother’s side relatives (in his case, his wives’) were professional “putter downers”. I could not disagree. His remark was judgmental but its content was undeniably accurate. Most of my maternal-family insights about life and people were so inclined towards deception that they could easily be comprised in a few popular sayings like piensa mal y acertarás / “think badly and you will be right”, dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres / “tell me who you are with and I will tell you who you are,  “si el río suena es porque agua lleva” / “if the river sounds it is because it carries water”, or tronco que nace torcido, jamás su tronco endereza / “A log which is born crooked will never straighten its body” (my great-grandfather used to say that if you looked too much in the mirror you would turn into a monkey —so you can imagine what the general tendency in my family was in regards to self-esteem).

According to this laconic philosophy, life was not about recognizing oneself from within but about searching for validation in other people’s gazes. Appearances were overestimated and modesty was taken into a self-defeating extreme. My familial maternal blood ties were all about love —don’t get me wrong— (my grandparents were the sweetest couple in the world), but they were also filled with doubt and fear and understood no better formula to survive than to lower one’s hopes, quiet one’s dreams (because they were just that, dreams), and expect the worst of everyone and everything.

I’ve come to realize though, that there were kernels of truth, of could-have-been actual life lessons in those rigid and prejudiced narratives; that what they lacked was a broader psychological frame, a bigger picture. That by becoming so literal and narrow those words were deprived not only of a more reasonable analytical landscape but from its most powerful component: intuition. In a few words, I was educated to doubt everyone and everything, including my senses.

I was thinking about this last week, as I walked (meditation taken, book in hand to not think too much about the outcome of what I was about to do, but with the inner certainty that the truth is on my side, and that it matters) to confront (after almost exactly 20 years of confusion and silence) one of the most feared law-enforcing organs in the city —the Fiscalía or “attorney general” (better known as the “bunker”)— to give my testimony regarding a certain sexual perpetrator. I could not help but wonder, on my way there —as I rode the metro for the first time since the pandemic started— if I would be standing in exactly the same place at the same time, and have to go through the same painful experiences in life in order to effectively distinguish between good and bad hamburgers (and be able to speak up about it) if my sentimental education were focused on acceptance and self-reliance instead of being constructed over fear and disbelief…

Nonetheless, I felt thankful for being where I was and for doing what I was doing then, and what I am doing now. I have no regrets.   

As a food writer, I have been introduced to a few of those deceiving hamburgers who sell themselves as “the best”. These fancy-plated specimens usually appear in the menus of flawlessly choreographed culinary “experiences” that are good at giving the impression that everything is about you: your astonishing beauty, your mind-blowing intelligence, your admirable self-efficacy, your unwavering ideals, your coolness… Opportunistic burgers have theatrical skills; they know how to put on a show and become the puppet masters of every dialog. They need to take control over the ambient too. Their most obvious locations of choice would be either an over-priced world-famous restaurant (where the staff greets the hamburger by its last name) or the bar of a five-starred hotel with a short menu by a celebrated chef (with a rather indecent undertone in the ambiance but not as noisy as to give the hamburger’s dark intentions away).

But probably the most deceiving of these self-appointed “superior hamburgers” are the ones that disguise their love as true behind a lower-profile choice, like an under-the-radar Parisian-like neighborhood spot where a hamburger is not “a” hamburger but “le” hamburger. There is nothing evidently wrong about these superior pseudointellectual bistro burgers, on the contrary (although their anxious and dimly-pedantic speech should be a first twinkling of the beware signals when properly acknowledged) —the meat is thick and juicy, the bread is consistently good, the fries are cooked to perfection and coated with the right amount of salt, they come with a side of spicy mustard and cornichons, and have no ridiculous eccentricities added— but there is something “off” about the way these apparently inoffensive burgers carry themselves; a remote, almost imperceptible dissonance between life before and after you taste them.

You see, not all burgers eat their burgers and just walk away satisfied, one can easily become a regular to a certain restaurant. Some hamburgers are addictive, covertly controlling, and can make their thespian love lo like an actual partnership. Verbose burgers tend to be covert mind snatchers; they control their victim's behaviors without them being aware, they have an inborn ability to read their cravings and spot their weaknesses and then come up with a perfect “secret recipe” that pushes them in “all the right buttons”, an umami-like substance that gets them hooked. This powerful yet invisible venom can manifest immediately in a victim’s body as physical abuse, or it can have less evident but prolonged and irreversible damage by hollowing their victims’ brains and souls until it slowly converts them into its think-a-like zombies, like a cult. These ill-intended burgers are dissociative —they have a broken identity— so they never take accountability for the hurt they cause to others and experience no real empathy (only a fake goal-oriented one). Sadly, there is nothing between those perfect pieces of potato-bun, nothing, it is all an illusion, the promise of what could have been a great burger.

Loving a fake hamburger is a waste of time and money, a drain of resources, a scam. They believe that their freedom depends on the enslavement of others because they themselves are only rotten meat inside; they take and eat and suck and are masters at making believe that they give a lot back, that other burgers should be in awe with them. Once you figure out their abusive conduct though, it becomes crystal clear how profoundly pathetic and sad they are.

Unfortunately, letting-go of a rotten hamburger is not always as easy as paying the check and leaving. These burgers tend to become stalkers; they do everything in their power to keep their victims around (in their “umami-like” orbit) as pseudo friends and fans so that they can provide them with services, attention, admiration, and become their eternal enablers and triangulators. Other burgers are married with kids and the separation from them can turn into a living nightmare; the victim not only must fight the perpetrator but the whole society and its paternalistic rotten hamburger-enabling system (that by abusing its mothers it is slowly but surely killing us all).

Lately, more women in México are becoming loud on the media about gender abuse-related issues that for a long time had remained silent —or silenced— and normalized. This is a positive thing but it is like eating only half the burger. The task is not complete until we come face to face with our bureaucracy and place our formal demands —preferably on our own terms, without the mediation of any person or group— so we can actually reshape our justice system. I understand that many women are afraid of reaching directly to public authorities and institutions in these matters because of fear of being revictimized, but that was thankfully not my experience. As I went to make my demand, I was attended by a professional and empathetic all-women staff that made me feel listened to, understood, acknowledged, and protected (I have no personal expectations about the outcome of my particular case, I am just trying to do what is right).

The risk that we face as a society if we let these kinds of issues remain mediatic-only, or if we cede the control of their administration and resolution to third parties, is that, in the first case, they can turn into “old news” pretty fast and leave the aggressors free to lay-low for a while until they find a way to reinvent themselves and keep on doing the only thing they apparently know how to do which is ruining other peoples’ lives (we should never forget that most of this characters are successful con-artists), and, on the second, that by not taking control ourselves of the situation we can let our demands become vulnerable to other people’s economic, politic, or social interests and lose its original significance.

We should never let anyone or anything, anymore, come between us and our truths. Be brave.

Love is not your freedom and my enslavement. Love is your freedom and my freedom tied, bonded, empowered. A self-loving burger is a free burger, a happy burger, the most delicious hamburger in the world, with bread or without.

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PACHOLAS

Makes 6 to 8 patties.


This delicate, slim, flavorful, and juicy hamburger-like patties, are very typical of the state of Jalisco where my maternal grandfather and my paternal grandmother were from. That is probably why in both of their houses, pacholas were very recurrent, they usually served with refried beans, rice, avocado, some simple salad, tortillitas, and fresh salsa. They were always made in the traditional manner; with a metate.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 k of grounded meat (any kind or combination you like)

  • 1 or 2 dried chiles cleaned and softened in hot water (also your choice)   

  • ¼ of an onion

  • 1 clove of garlic

  • Vegetable oil

  • Salt to taste

Grind the chile with the onion, the garlic, and a pinch of sea salt on a metate or a blender. Add the resulting paste to the meat and mix thoroughly.

To form the pachola you can choose between two methods:

1. Metate method:

Pass the meat through the stone (or metlapile in Náhuatl) a couple of times and then pass it again without applying too much pressure and slowly push it to form a wave-shaped patty (look at the pictures below) as thin as possible, and set them apart in a tray, a parchment paper or any plain surface.     

2. Rolling pin method:

Roll a portion of the meat between two pieces of parchment paper as thin as you can, and then mark the wave shapes on the surface of the meat with a fork.

Cook the pacholas on a pan with some oil and serve immediately accompanied with your favorite Mexican sides, salsa, and hot tortillas.


HAMBURUESITA CASERA       

8 to 10 burgers.


The hamurguesita casera or “homey burger” is a Mexican-influenced half-way version between a pachola and a conventional hamburger. You can find them in homes as well as in fondas with “daily special” menus. Every place or family has its own way of seasoning the meat. In my house, that included chopped onion, chopped cilantro, and Worchester’s sauce —this time I also added chopped chile serrano to give more flavor and a hint of spice. This kind of hamburger is usually served without bread and accompanied with a simple salad and French fries, among other sides, it can also be topped with a slice of melted cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 k of grounded meat (any kind or combination you like)

  • ¼ of an onion chopped

  • a bunch of cilantro chopped

  • 1 -2 serrano chiles seeded and chopped

  • a few drops of Worchester’s sauce

  • Vegetable oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything, make the patties, grill them, and serve them with french fries and salad.


JALAPEÑO-CUCUMBER PICKLES

1 jar (around 1Lt).


Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Persian cucumbers

  • 2-3 jalapeños

  • 1 Mayer lemon

  • 1/4 of red onion

  • 1-2 cloves of garlic sliced

  • 1/2 tsp of caraway seeds

  • 3-4 pieces of all-spice

  • 1/2 a tsp of coriander seeds

  • 1 cup of water

  • 1/3 cup of white vinegar

  • 1/4 cup of sea salt

  • 1 900-1000 ml jar (sterilized)

Cut the vegetables any way you like or leave them whole and pack them into the jar.

On a pot, mix the water, the vinegar, the garlic, the salt, and the spices. Heat the liquid until it simmers and pour it into the jar.

Close the lid and leave the jar to rest at room temperature for at least a week and transfer to the refrigerator.


COPYCAT MCDONALD’S DRESSING


Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of chopped onions

  • 1/4 cup of chopped pickles

  • 1/4 cup of chopped lettuce

  • 1/4 cup of ketchup

  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise

  • 1 tbsp of mustard

  • 1/2 tsp of paprika

  • a few drops of lemon

  • Salt to taste

Mix everything.

Serve with hamburger.


EFFORTLESS-FANCY BURGER

6 to 8 patties.


Ingredients:

  • 1 k of grounded meat (any kind or combination you like)

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Copycat McDonald’s dressing

  • 100 g of sliced bacon

  • 6-8 hamburger buns

Form the patties, top with salt and pepper, grill on one side until it releases its juices, turn, add cheese, let cook until it browns. Fry the bacon.

Toast the bread, spread the dressing on both sides, add the meat, and top with the bacon.


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