The Best Burger Ever

This post comes to you courtesy of an eloquent Marine who definitely has his own mind about burgers.

–Ann Cathey

Bastard on Parade

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Best Burger Ever

Over my lifetime I have devoured hundreds, if not thousands, of hamburgers.  The hamburger is one of my favorite parts of Americana when it comes to food.  They are so simple and yet so complicated.  On the surface it is just bread, meat, bread.  In essence, it is a sandwich with two big pieces of bread.  I have had beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and fish hamburgers, some better than others.  Many of these burgers have included a cornucopia of seasonings included into the meat from jalapenos to Thai spices. I have had a menagerie of add-ons and condiments on my burgers.  My personal favorite combination is simple: bread, meat, cheese, tomato, mustard, bread.  Simple and elegant.

Of all the burgers that I have had in my life only one stands out over all others as the “Greatest.”  In the second quarter of the year 2000 I was on my first field deployment in the United States Marine Corps.  We had made the trek from Camp Pendleton, California out to the Godforsaken land mass known as Twenty-Nine Palms, or as we Marines referred to it: “The Stumps.”  The name is a complete misnomer.  With all the times that I spent on that base, the only trees I saw were Joshua Trees; and those were located elsewhere from the portions of the base that I saw regularly.  The Stumps is a vast desert and mountain region with nothing but sparse scrub vegetation found intermittently about the base.  The only place that I have ever been that was more desolate and foreboding was the home of my step-grandparents when I was around the age of eleven or twelve years old.

So, there I am, out in the middle of the desert for thirty days traveling from one local to the next.  Over this period of time I am reduced to eating Meals-Ready to-Eat (MREs) and field chow.  MREs are packed meals for between fifteen hundred and three thousand calories each.  Pretty nice when you manage to sweat out close to one hundred calories an hour just sitting in the shade due to the extreme one-hundred and twenty degree heat.  Field chow is a whole different ballgame, but still played in the same park.  It is generally canned vegetables and fruit served with either canned or dehydrated meat products.  I was never sure of the caloric content, nor do I think I want to know, of these meals, but like the MREs, some were pretty damned tasty if you like the taste of cardboard and Tabasco Sauce.

Again, I survived on this fare for thirty days.  It is not that hard to do.  After the first few days, though, you begin to miss a few small things.  At first I missed fresh eggs.  The powdered egg product they served us in the field was just as I described it earlier, cardboard flavored with a hint of Tabasco Sauce.  The sauce was provided courtesy of my MREs, at least those that did not need the sauce for those meals.  After eggs I began to miss just about anything that was not prepackaged months in advance or powdered.  I was going crazy.  I traded cigarettes for candy bars, sunflower seeds, anything that was not military food.

Finally, after thirty days of culinary hell, we were told that we would be making a trip to “Base Camp” for a quick resupply at the Post Exchange (PX).  I was happy; I had run out of cigarettes two days before and the life expectancy of my squad mates was dropping by the hour.  When we pulled into Base Camp an hour later I noticed a building with smoke pouring out of the roof.  I looked at my assistant driver and asked the question that would change my life.

“What the hell?  Is that place on fire?”

“No way, dude.  That is the base burger joint.  Let’s go get some smokes and then head over there” was his reply.

After standing in line for cigarettes, and then puffing two in a row down outside, we walked to the burger joint and made our way in.  Upon entering I was confronted with two things.  First, the sight.  This burger joint was just sheet metal stretched over a frame with a kitchen in the back separated from the masses by a half wall with two registers on a desk behind it.  The floor was nothing more than the poured concrete foundation.  Picnic tables were arranged in rows from front to back.  The second confrontation was with my nose.  I smelled that great, glorious aroma of cooking flesh.  It filled the air, permeating every molecule.  It forced its way into every nook and cranny.  I was drunk on that alluring smell in seconds.  I practically ran to get my butt in line to order.

After sometime in line I finally was able to place my order and receive my ticket number.  I walked away from the counter, giddy with anticipation.  I joined my squad mates at one of the picnic tables and wait for my number to be called.  And waited and waited and waited.  The actual wait time was no more than fifteen minutes, but to a man deprived of burger for so long the time seemed like hours.  I watched, jealously, hungrily, greedily as Marine after Marine that was not me was called to the wall and handed his plate.  Finally they called my number.  I do not remember the walk up to the wall or the walk back.  All I do remember before the first bite was the sight of two quarter pound patties of one hundred percent beef, three slices of bacon and two pieces of melted American cheese, all on a standard, store bought hamburger bun.

My hands trembled as I brought the burger, my precious bit of American culinary delight, up to my gaping maw.  I bit into it.  My taste buds were washed over with a tsunami of flavor and grease.  It was ecstasy.  It was Heaven.  It was Nirvana.  It was almost orgasmic.  All was right with the world.  Had I been looking in a mirror I would have noticed my pupils dilate like those of a heroin addict when they spike their vein.  Each bite was more delicious than the last.  Each crumb more scrumptious.  Each artery clogging taste was pure rapture.

Gone was the taste of cardboard.  Gone was the need for Tabasco Sauce.  This burger had not been made and packaged more than six months ago.  It was not made from anything dehydrated.  It has not come from a can.  The patties had been hand patted and cooked on a grill that had probably not been cleaned in two years; just more fat for the flavor.

Soon it was all over.  I took my last bite and savored every chewing motion.  As I swallowed the last of that great concoction I turned my head to see that the line for ordering was even longer than when I had first arrived.  I checked my watch.  Only ten minutes before our convoy rolled out for another fifteen days in the desert.  Not enough time.

I walked away from that table, from that burger joint, content with a belly full of beef, pork and American cheese.  When I sat down in my truck to await the signal to start it up my assistant driver looked at me and asked what I thought.  I conveyed my sentiment to him at which he laughed and called me a weirdo.

Shortly thereafter the signal to start our engines was given and we drove away, back into the blazing, sandy inferno from which we had emerged only an hour before.  I still remember that burger to this day, more than a decade later.  No other burger has ever been able to taste as good.  This knowledge has brought me to the edge of tears more than once.  Never again will I savor that delectable, artery clogging, cholesterol raising symbol of a greater power than mankind.  If only you, the humble reader could experience that burger.  If only you could truly understand how unfortunate you truly are.  If only I could remember which entrance we used to get into Twenty-Nine Palms that lead straight to the damned burger joint.

OctoBEARfest, Magnolia, Texas

BearsEtc_(1)Bears Etc.’s second annual OctoBEARfest is ready to roar!

Join them on October 12 from 10am-4pm in Montgomery’s historic district located off of Texas 105 and Liberty Street to help raise funds for a bear sanctuary in Montgomery County. The children’s area, crafter’s market, and bake sale will be back again this year, along with several new attractions.

Last year’s inaugural event raised over $4,000. The goal is to raise $200,000 to support the vision for a new Bear and Exotic Animal Rescue Sanctuary  in Montgomery. Bears Etc. was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2017 to provide permanent, community-based, self-sustainable refuge as a home for displaced exotic and wild animals and to educate others about the natural world.

As with last year, there will be a BBQ cook-off. Buy your taster’s ticket early and enjoy some premier Texas BBQ – and get to vote on which is the best!

 

This year will also see a lawnmower race, and a wide assortment of information and crafts booths to browse and learn from. The cottage industry was well represented with tons of tasty items available for sampling and sale.

 

Last year’s information booths included Bear’s Etc., Safe Haven – a large animal rescue service, and a raptor rehabilitation team.

 

Hope to see you there!

— Ann Cathey

GEM – Small Cards, Big Game

If you are in the market for a small, pocketable game with a tremendous strategic punch, you just may find it in a series of card games created by Chris Handy and Perplext. The entire line is available online. Printed instructions are included with each game, and they also provide a PDF version and an online video explaining play mechanics.

IMG_5233The first of these little jewels we brought home to try out was GEM – a game of material management and financial strategy. Of course we would choose one with a higher complexity rating to start off with. Players are buying gemstones at auction, leveraging their value to buy more, and coming out with the highest number of gems and ultimately the greatest financial value at the end of six auctions.

IMG_5236As you can see by the photo, a lot of material is packed into a pocket-sized box. A sheet containing the full set of instructions, gemstone cards, and coin cards. That’s all you need. Well, that and a knack for changing strategies on the fly. It’s a material collection game in the pursuit of wealth: player with the most expensive GEM collection wins.

The instructions are not difficult to read, in spite of the small size. The initial layout is easy and allows for 6 auctions; it differs if you play with 2 or 4 players (6, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2 card pattern), or with three (all auction piles contain 3 cards).

Play begins with the player to left of the dealer making an opening bid — without revealing which card in the current auction s/he desires. Bidding goes around until everyone has bid. High bidder takes the card s/he wants, then places another bid and the rounds continue until all cards have been auctioned.

Sounds simple, right? That’s about as simple as this game gets. Each player must develop their own strategies for building wealth to win auctions with, while keeping as many gem cards as possible out of leveraging. A player may leverage gems already owned to buy more gems. It’s a delicate balance to maintain and not run a hand into hock so far that it cannot be reversed before the end of the game. Two players is definitely fun, though strategies for winning tend to reveal themselves pretty quickly. Playing with 3 or 4 offers a lot more in the way of competitive strategy, and is often quicker.

Scoring is a layered system. After removing all the still leveraged items from her/his hand, a player will count the number of stones in the collection. There are additional points for matching numbers of stones between collections, and for the highest number of a single gem type per collection. Highest cumulative score wins. There are more subtleties in the rules, though I have presented a basic overview for your edification. Don’t let the terms “finance,” “leverage,” or “assets” keep you away. They are the simplest terms to use in the world of GEM investment and accumulation of wealth.

This game was picked among the many available at the time for its small size, portability, and ability to be played on smaller flat surfaces. The cards have a high-quality playing card finish for durability, as the cards require a lot of handling while in play.

I recommend GEM to anyone who’s in the market for a sharp game that can be played most anywhere. It’s been an intelligent and fun experience.

 

— Ann Cathey

105 Cafe – Conroe, TX

Conveniently located on Highway 105 in Conroe, Texas,  the 105 Cafe has been a popular spot for a number of years. They have been turning out homestyle American breakfast and lunch dishes made with local and organic ingredients to an increasingly loyal bunch of customers. Once you taste the offerings, you’ll be a convert, too.

From brown eggs fresh off the farm, to locally grown organic produce, this place has a refreshing blend of homestyle and slightly offbeat items on their menu.

Our latest visit was for breakfast, and we found some very satisfying meals awaiting us.

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Buffalo Chicken Omelette with Black Beans

 

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The Irishman Skillet – corned beef with eggs, potatoes, onions, peppers and cheese.

Stop by and give them a try. It wounds trite to say but you will be glad you did.

On the 1-5 scale, 105 Cafe has earned:

Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.8
105 Cafe
3010 W Davis Street
Conroe, TX 77304
(936) 539-3447
105cafe.com
Enjoy! We certainly did!

– Ann Cathey

Simple spot turning out homestyle American breakfast & lunch dishes made with organic ingredients.

Food Porn – Episode 13


Yet another episode of photos of foods that my partner and I have been blessed to have tasted, if not consumed outright. Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

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Kielbasa with potatoes, mustard, baked beans and a kosher pickle.

42788081_253369915368591_1097165918502387712_n CMO AFWaffle Sausage

Almond flour waffles with Li’l Smokies sausages.

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Sliced sausage from Smokey Mo’s in Conroe, Texas.

37656581_10215091303609761_5789569383332315136_n Daves Smoked Brisket

Dave’s backyard brisket.

Kitchen Hash

What wonderful things come to mind when scrounging in the kitchen.

My grandmothers and theirs used to make their own hash, rather than
buying it pre-made from the grocery. The potatoes made leftover meat
go farther on a tight budget. I found what I needed in my own kitchen
one morning and whipped this little recipe up for breakfast.

Kitchen Hash

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Sausage leftover from brats and saurkraut.

Ingredients:

Tbs minced garlic
1/4 white onion, minced
Leftover sausage or other broken meats
2 medium potatoes, cooked, chopped
1/4 tsp pink sea salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp parsley
Cheddar Jack cheese to taste

 

Directions:
Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil
Add meat, sauté until hot
Add potato and spices, stir until hot throughout
Serve with cheese

 

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Garlic, onion, and sausage.

Directions:
Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil
Add meat, sauté until hot
Add potato and spices, stir until hot throughout
Serve with cheese

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Potatoes added

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I simply served on a plate with shredded cheese. You might toss some
of this hash into a tortilla for breakfast tacos, or pile some on a
split biscuit and serve it with gravy. The potential combinations are
limited only by your imagination, and may be served for breakfast,
lunch or even dinner.

– Chopped jalapenos will give it a bit of bite.
– Diced, pre-cooked carrots, turnips, and/or rutabagas might be used
with or instead of the potatoes.
– Any broken meat will work with this recipe, from chicken and turkey
to pork, beef, venison, goat or mutton.
– Any type of onions, shallots, or even leeks will offer a variety of
textures and flavors.

Give this hash a try at home, seasoned to suit your tastes, an leave
a note about how it turned out.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Dan’s Lentil Chili

This vegetarian chili is quick and simple. The recipe comes from the kitchen of Dan & Salley, long time friends.

DAN’S LENTIL CHILI
Ingredients:
1 lb bag lentils
1 15 oz can tomatoes
1 chili powder to taste

Cook lentils as directed.
Add tomatoes and chili powder. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Stir well.
Allow to heat through and serve.
Of course I had to mess with it.

I added sauted onion and garlic, and shredded fresh zucchini when the tomatoes went in.

Extra cumin is well appreciated in my kitchen, too. If you can’t smell the cumin in a chili pot, it’s simply not acceptable to the family.

There’s a lot of texture in this chili, both in the original recipe and in my version. As with any chili salt, pepper, sour cream, shredded cheese, picante, and/or hot sauces are all optional toppings.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey
P.S. My apologies for the lack of photos.

Snacks!

I’ve shopped with Kroger grocery stores for many years. They have been a top contender in affordable offerings for a long time, and are imporving their ability to feed individuals on a budget. For a lot of folks, part of that budget is snacks, whether for between meals fulfillment, or for presentation at gatherings.

From the website:

“Kroger Brand: Where Awesome Meets Affordable
Kroger Brand strives to constantly outdo itself. That means you’ll find a wide variety of high-quality products, at great prices to boot! The experts behind the scenes are constantly innovating to bring you even more unique bites and delicious drinks, as well as convenient household staples.”

On this set of missions, Kroger is repeatedly using the word ‘awesome’ and with good reason.

Awesome (adjective): extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration; extremely good or excellent

Synonyms: breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful
Mission Level 1: Make Snack Time Awesome
IMG_4077This level of the mission offered up pizza rolls, chocolate chip cookies, trail mix, and some other goodies.

DSC_0140The cookies were an easy snack! I loaded them up with Nutella to make sandwich cookies. Served with cold milk, they went really fast.

 

 

IMG_4073The Kroger Brand Pizza Rolls have made it into our kitchen’s regular rotation for both snacks and quick meals. We found that leftover red sauce spread over the rolls and topped with shredded Italian cheeses makes a great, if a little messy, alternative to pasta! We also tried them with chili and cheese. We enjoy the results immensely!

 
Mission Level 2: Make Game Day Awesome
DSC_0967This mission level gave us a pub mix, a koozie, and some coupon based freebies like the seltzer water I love so much.

We put all of it to great snacking use.
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Mission Level 3: Make Halloween Awesome
DSC_0966When is Halloween not awesome? When there are no treats! This mission sent us goodies such as pumpkin carving stencils, pretzels, gummi worms, and a trick or treat bag. Sadly I was unable to put together the projects I wanted to try out, but we did some other awesome things for the spookiest night of the year.

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Here’s hoping this blog gives you some nifty snacking ideas not only for further along this season (Thanksgiving, Winter holidays, Superbowl, etc.), but for a long time to come.

— Ann Cathey

#WhereAwesomeMeetsAffordable #MyMagazineSharing #FreeSamp

Fall Book Sale! – Conroe TX

The Library Friends of Conroe is a volunteer organization benefiting the Montgomery County Library System. Among the many projects they organize and run, they host a twice yearly Book Sale at the Central Library in Conroe, Texas. All of the books, dvds, VHS tapes, puzzles, music cds and other goodies available at the Book Sale have been donated by members of the community in the hopes that they will recirculate and bring needed funds to the Library.

If you have never been to one of the extravaganzas, it is an experience. There are three large rooms and an entire hallway filled with tables that are covered in books of all types. I have been able to find the most remarkable cookbooks dating back into the 40’s at these tables, as well a books I’ve been wanting to read, and am always willing to go back and check for more.

Beginning on Thursday, October 4th, from 4:30pm to 8:00pm, is First Choice Night. There is no entry free and everyone is welcome. This is the first view of the items for sale and your chance not only to preview, but to make some awesome purchases for your own reading enjoyment and edification.

Continuing on Friday,October 5th, 9:00am to 4:30pm, and Saturday, October 6th, 9:00am to 3:00pm, the sale continues in all sale areas.

The famous $2 Bag Sale is on Saturday from 9:00am to 12:30pm in the large meeting room only. The Library Friends will provide you with a bag that you are allowed to pile as many books into as you wish – for only $2. All other areas remain at regular price.

Join us at 104 I-45 North, Conroe, Texas 77301, October 4-6, for a Texas-sized Book Sale!

If you happen to miss the Fall Book Sale this year, remember that here is another one in the Spring, and Vicki’s Book Nook is always available at the Central Library, and open whenever the library is.

For more information, please call 936-788-3888 or email lov2read@consolidated.net. You may also visit the MCLS website.

Clean and gently used donations are accepted all year at Vicki’s Book Nook at the Central Library.

–Ann Cathey

Hitting the Road with Kroger Fuel Points

Put simply, it’s all about saving money. Whether you use coupons to shop, or other savings programs, they all add up to not spending as much as you might otherwise.

DSC_0243 sm MMSN

Hitting the open road on vacation!

One of those ways to save, if you shop at the Kroger family of stores, is to sign up for and use their fuel rewards program. It’s as easy to do as doing your normal shopping. Every time you buy something, your points begin to add up. Use your Shopper’s card or enter your alternate ID at checkout, and it’s done. Every single time.

From the website:

FUEL POINTS 101

How it Works
When you shop at a Kroger Co. Family Store and use your Shopper’s Card, you’ll earn 1 fuel point for every $1 you spend.*  Once you’re at the pump, simply scan your Shopper’s Card or enter your Alternate ID, then choose to redeem your available fuel discount. You can also redeem your fuel points at one of our redemption partners.*

When Do They Expire?
Fuel points earned in the current month will expire at the end of the next month. However, fuel points do not combine across months. Each month is a separate accumulation period. Fuel points earned in separate months cannot be combined in the same transaction. You’ll always be offered your highest unredeemed discount first.

How Can I Keep Track of My Points?
With the “My Account” feature in your digital account, you can see how many fuel points you’ve accumulated, how many you’ve redeemed, how you earned them, when they expire and more. You can also see your previous month’s fuel points. You can also track your fuel points with the Mobile App!

*Restrictions apply. Not valid in LA or MO. Offer, discount and redemption locations vary by market. See store or visit our FAQ page to learn more about the program at your store.

My family and a lot of my friends shop at Kroger, in part for the fuel rewards. In this day and age, every little bit helps.

We recently went on vacation in Colorado, and found one of the Kroger family of stores there, as well as at home in Texas. Our fuel account was active in both states, and helped up travel that little bit further as we explored Red Rocks Park and so many other scenic spots and interesting eateries.

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Lone Ponderosa pine at Red Rocks Park, Colorado.

— Ann Cathey

#KrogerCo #FuelPointsForDays #Ad #MyMagazineSharing